AREDALE, Iowa (CNN) - RAGBRAI is an acronym for the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, and, according to its website, it's the "largest, longest, and oldest touring bicycle ride in the world." The week-long event sponsored by the Des Moines Register can attract well over 10,000 cyclists ranging from beginners to, in this year's case, a Tour de France winner.
I'm speaking of the one and only Lance Armstrong, cyclist extraordinaire and founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which, according to its website, "unites, inspires and empowers people affected by cancer."
Unlike running for the presidency, RAGBRAI is non-competitive. So Armstrong extended invitations to anyone in 2008's wide field of presidential candidates to come along for the ride. And did anyone take him up on the offer? Yes, one: Democrat John Edwards. He also brought the family, including wife Elizabeth who's having her own battle with cancer.
Each of these men is a "celebrity" in one way or another. Edwards is a former senator, former vice-presidential nominee, and one of the candidates for his party's nomination in 2008; Armstrong is the best-known name in cycling, having won the Tour seven consecutive times.
But when Edwards and Armstrong pedal through some of the early caucus state's smallest towns—along with their entourages and some of the biggest crowds on wheels these towns have ever seen – is the overall response positive or negative?
Picture the scene at Duck's Bar and Grill on Main Street in the small town of Aredale, Iowa. It's 5:00PM and four middle-aged area residents are chatting. They're tired after a long day of cooking and selling drinks to thousands of out-of-towners. Armstrong was among the thousands strolling through – though in his case it was probably quicker than a stroll. However, there was no Edwards in tow.
The candidate, like a lot of participants in RAGBRAI, only rode a part of the trip, in his case 12 of the ride's 472 miles. Of course, he’s busy. But does riding in the RAGBRAI benefit his campaign – or do the good people of Iowa see it as a media event?
"All this is a publicity stunt if you ask me," said 45-year old Scott Yung. "Sure, Aredale is a small town that could use the attention–and for that it's wonderful– but it's just a waste of time for them."
"Lance [Armstrong], I can understand," said Mark Nalan, a 43-year old from the nearby town of Sheffield. "But candidates are not athletes."
"He went 12 miles," Yung adds. "Heck, I could have done that drunk."
A man overhears the conversation at the other end of the bar and interrupts. "It wouldn't sway me just because a presidential candidate came through town," he said with more than a hint of frustration, "because I know that if it weren't for RAGBRAI, they would'nt be here at all."
But bartender Nicole Prause has had enough of this. She disagrees completely.
"Even though he only rode about 12 miles," she said, "at least he took the time to do that. Others don't." Prause continued: "His name is stuck in my head after today, and I had never even heard of John Edwards until he came through RAGBRAI."
Nothing scientific about this bar talk in Aredale, Iowa. But it just goes to show you don’t need a cast of thousands – or even a dozen – to get plenty of different opinions in the Hawkeye State.
-CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch
It's the Hawkeye state not the Buckeye State.
Iowa is the Hawkeye State. Ohio is the the Buckeye State.
They only remember what you did or said last.
Dude, the Buckeye state is OHIO.
ONE glaring reason why John Edwards can't be the democratic nominee. The guy couldn't even carry his home state in the last general election. Same reason why Al Gore will not run. An Obama / Richardson ticket would send shockwaves... Fresh change and Real Experience. As we all know, Hillary will top the national polls until the Iowa caucus, then she'll finish 4th behind Edwards-Obama-Richardson
Buckeye State???? Hello!!!! That's Ohio! And you call yourself the Iowa Producer?? Geez...no wonder nobody trusts the media these days!
I really like Obama, and his book. But too often he sounds like a kid.
This is what John Edwards is all about: putting the focus on small town people with local concerns. Too many voters get trapped into looking at issues in a national spotlite that will never affect them. This is their opportunity to speak out.
Edwards is the only electable Dem in the general. Sad to say but this country will never nominate a woman or a black it is just an undeniable truth. Check out the polls Edwards runs consistantly 3rd in the Dem polls but against the GOP he beats them all and by a wider margin. What does that tell you? JRE is a warrior for the 'people' and has the most comprehensive policies to make bold change within the current flawed system that is leaving average Americans behind!
Concerning Kevin's comment above:John Edwards was only the vice presidential nominee in 2004. North Carolinians were voting on the presidential candidate and that was John Kerry. Had Edwards been at the top of the ticket the results would have been different.
From Kevin from DM... You say Edwards couldn't even carry his home state?? Have you ever lived in NC?? Do you know how we think here?? I wouldn't vote for Kerry no matter who he ran with... we dislike Kerry in NC, which is why Kerry/Edwards can't win here...but EDWARDS being #1 on the ticket will surely pull NC for him. You are sooooo naive and uneducated to say that Edwards can't carry his home state... when did you see him run here by himself? We don't like Yankees and we don't like Northeastern no it all's... Hillary and Obama don't stand a chance down here. If the Dems wanna win, they gotta pick our homeboy.. Please tell me when Edwards couldn't carry his home state? I'm interested to know...
Have you ever heard of GIGO? I suggest that you find out. I bet that you know all the poll numbers don't you?
John Edwards has been first with his health care plan, first with his tax plan, and now, first and only among the candidates to accept Lance's invitation to ride in RAGBRAI. I like this guy.
Did anybody read this article? Lance Armstrong as the founder of a cancer support group invited all of the candidates. John Edwards, whose wife has and is still battling cancer, accepts the invitation in support of cancer research. How many other candidates even bother to give health care a nod today? Hawkeye-Buckeye, my team, your team...grow up! Research the issues and the candidates thoroughly. This country needs informed voters to decide its fate!!