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Edwards Answers Criticism During Poverty Tour
"I think the very humanitarian crisis and circumstances that exist in western Sudan that have prompted the UN to move forward would exist in Iraq and I think there would be a different environment for bringing others in," he said.
In urging the Congress to resist approving any measure short of a clear timetable for withdrawal, Edwards said Democratic lawmakers should do everything possible to keep pressure on Bush.
"If they continue to submit bills to the president funding the troops with a timetable for withdrawal, eventually the president's going to have to make a decision about what to do because he's not going to have the money to continue the war," he said. "He's going to have to start deciding what to do with the troops, which I think will force a redeployment out of Iraq."
Edwards specifically said Democrats should not vote for the measure offered by Republican Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana and John Warner of Virginia, calling on Bush to prepare a new strategy, even if that were the only measure that could gain enough support to pass the Congress. "It's not enough," he said.
When he turned to discussing the contest for the Democratic nomination, Edwards dismissed the idea that recent changes in the top levels of his campaign represent any attempt to shake up or rejuvenate a candidacy that has fallen far behind Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) in the race for campaign cash, sagged in some national polls and is struggling in New Hampshire.
"This is nothing but growth," he said of the additions of two former staffers for an anti-Wal-Mart group and the increased role of Joe Trippi, who managed former Gov. Howard Deans 2004 presidential bid. Edwards said he anticipates no significant changes in the campaigns approach or strategy as a result of the reshuffling.
Edwards would not directly address possible weaknesses of Clinton or Obama, the two leading Democratic candidates, as general election nominees. But he stated without hesitation that he would be the Democrat with the best chance of winning.
"I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming that I'm the strongest general election candidate," he said citing his election to the Senate from a red state and his roots in the rural South.
Edwards also sought to clarify a brief discussion with Clinton that was captured on tape in which the two talked about limiting the size of Democratic debates. He denied that he favors pushing others out of the debates. "I am not in favor of excluding anybody from debates," he said.
He added that he would support any mechanism to get away from sound-bite driven debates. That might include formats limiting the number of topics or debates that included smaller groups of candidates, selected at random by the sponsors.
"When you ask eight people standing on a stage what would you do in Iraq and you give them either 30 or 60 seconds to answer, there is no way that any normal person watching that debate is going to be able to keep in their heads the differences or understand in any depth what the differences are and what we believe," he said. "And there are differences, and people need to understand those."