With the skirmishing between the campaigns of John Edwards and Senator Barack Obama intensifying, Mr. Edwards on Friday tried to distinguish himself from his Democratic rivals, saying he has “what it takes in here for the battle” with corporate interests.
Alluding to the fight for universal health care, Mr. Edwards said, “We do have that fight, and I think Senator Obama has a different approach to that.”
Mr. Edwards has repeatedly suggested that Mr. Obama would too readily negotiate with the health care industry.
In a new stump speech, Mr. Edwards warned of the perils facing the nation.
“Everything that makes America America is threatened today,” he told a standing-room-only crowd here. “The very things that make the promise of equal opportunity possible are at risk: Good jobs, a strong middle class, each generation doing its part to make certain that we give our children a better life.”
Struggle for future
Mr. Edwards drew the presidential election in broad strokes, calling it “not just another four-year fight between political parties,” but a struggle for the nation’s future that should unite Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Polls suggest Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama are roughly in a tie with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Iowa, which holds its caucuses on Thursday.
On the Republican side, soon after Mitt Romney released a television advertisement on Friday in New Hampshire attacking Senator John McCain’s record on taxes and immigration, the McCain campaign released its first negative ad, using the words of the state’s leading papers to condemn Mr. Romney as a “phony.”
Mr. Romney, campaigning in Iowa, called the spot “nasty” and “mean-spirited” and said, “It tells you more about Senator McCain than it does about me that he’d run an ad like that.”
Mr. Romney was making his final push in Iowa with his wife, Ann, by his side and presenting a trimmed stump speech heavy on family themes and his image as a turnaround artist capable of changing Washington.
He spent the day dashing from stop to stop in western Iowa, a conservative region, on the first leg of a five-day bus tour across the state, meant to reach as many undecided Republican voters as possible.
Mr. Romney’s appearances stood out from his usual campaigning because his wife spoke for almost as long as he did at the day’s events, about 10 minutes, talking about raising their five sons and bolstering his message on the building up of American families.
The emphasis on “family values” and the highlighting of his own crowded family portrait has essentially become Mr. Romney’s answer to his rival Mike Huckabee. Mr. Huckabee’s very public evangelical religiosity has helped him open up a sizable advantage among conservative Christian voters, many of whom are suspicious of Mr. Romney’s Mormon faith.
Whereas Mr. Romney regularly attacked Mr. Huckabee by name last week, he did not bring him up on Friday. Instead, Mr. Romney tried to strike a more positive note.
“I’m convinced no one votes for yesterday,” he said. “We vote for tomorrow.”