The sun had gone down and a brisk breeze kicked up by the time Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) climbed onto an outdoor stage Thursday at the University of Iowa.
Edwards nevertheless chucked his blazer over a decorative bale of hay topped with pumpkins and corn before rolling up his sleeves and launching into his fiery stump speech. Speaking on a college campus in one of Iowa's most Democratic pockets, Edwards had an easy sell.
But the appearance, his last in a swing through southeastern Iowa Thursday, wasn't so much about changing minds. It was part of an effort to drive up the turnout of Democrats -- and Democratic students in particular -- in a state where polls show a very tight race between President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry.
"You see through all the politics," Edwards said, addressing the students in the audience of close to 1,000 people. "You see through the deceptions, and you see the truth."
He referred to an unnamed pollster who predicted that if lines are long -- and full of young people -- on Election Day, Kerry will win.
To underscore his point, Edwards pulled University of Iowa freshman Jessica Mangler onto stage and announced that she had already taken 47 of her friends to vote early. If other students there were to do just half that, Edwards proclaimed, "this election is over in Iowa."