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Younger Crowd Losing Appetite For Edwards

(Ben De La Cruz - Twp)

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By Anne E. Kornblut
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

DES MOINES

Tasara Ocheskey is an Iowa Democrat of the active variety -- so enthusiastic about the upcoming caucuses that she interrupted a reunion brunch with high school friends at the Waveland Cafe last Saturday to talk about the race.

But Ocheskey, 28, is no longer enthralled with the candidate she supported last time: former senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

Instead, she's thrown him over for Sen. Barack Obama. "I decided right at the beginning of the campaign to support Barack Obama," said Ocheskey, a teacher in Des Moines.

Under a thin layer of smoke that hung at the diner ceiling as dishes clanked and her friends fell quiet to listen to the political conversation, Ocheskey poured out the reasons for her conversion, all of them pertaining to what she described as Obama's strengths and fresh appeal rather than Edwards's weaknesses.

By no means a scientific survey of the Democratic field in the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating contest, a casual sampling of the mainly younger clientele that morning reflected a trend that is apparent in the polls: Edwards, who came in a strong second in 2004 and has held a lead in Iowa for a long time since, is no longer the runaway favorite. The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed the top three Democrats in a virtually even tie in the state.

Ocheskey said that she had even lovingly browbeaten her non-political 28-year-old boyfriend (who, sitting next to her at the table, nodded) to consider participating in the caucuses for the first time, and that she had lured her father from the Edwards side to Obama's.

"He knows what the people want, rather than what the corporations and the lobbyists want," Ocheskey said of the junior senator from Illinois.

Nearby, another cafe patron said she had also lost her excitement about the former vice presidential nominee this time around. Even though Meadow Stoner, 28, said she had not yet decided for whom to caucus -- the Iowa verb for voting in the primary contest -- she said it would probably not be Edwards.

"They've been sending me the DVDs and everything, but I haven't really watched them," Stoner, who works at a Pier 1 store, said of the Edwards campaign. As for why she is no longer supporting Edwards, Stoner said she hasn't heard as much about him as she has about Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), adding: "I heard his wife had some issues."

The story was repeated across the diner last Saturday morning.

Nikki Wells, a 27-year-old school psychologist who lived in another state in 2004 but voted for the Kerry-Edwards ticket in the general election that year, said she is not considering Edwards this time.

Instead, she said she is torn between Clinton and Obama.

Wendy Daniel, 31, a seventh-grade teacher in Des Moines who voted for Edwards in 2004, said she finds the former senator "just as interesting" as she did in the last race but has concerns about his wife's health.

"I just think he has a lot on his plate," Daniel said. "I feel sorry for him, because I think he would have been our next president" had his wife, Elizabeth, not had a recurrence of breast cancer, she said.

Now, Daniel said she is considering Obama, or maybe even former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the current Republican front-runner in national polls. "But if Hillary gets up there, I won't vote for her," she said emphatically. "I don't like her 'stand-by-your-man kind of girl who rides on her husband's coattails just to become president' thing. Maybe if she would have gotten a divorce and done everything for herself I would have thought about it."


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