Obama stepped up his criticism of Edwards Monday.
SPENCER, Iowa (CNN) - Barack Obama again took aim at Democratic presidential rival John Edwards Monday, telling an Iowa audience that comparing his record with the former North Carolina senator’s “will give you a sense of whether or not folks are real about fighting for” working men and women after winning the White House.
Edwards has made “fighting lobbyists and special interests” a central theme of his campaign, and the two men have spent the past few days in a verbal back-and-forth over the issue.
On Monday, the Illinois senator said he had played a major role in changing federal regulations on congressional gifts, telling the crowd that when he arrived in Washington, there was “a mindset that said there’s nothing wrong with lobbyists scratching the backs of congressmen.”
“The reason now that I raise the issue of special interests is because everybody now in the campaign talks about how I am going to fight for you,” said Obama at a campaign stop in Spencer. “Like Sen. Edwards - who is a good guy – he’s been talking a lot about ‘I am going to fight the lobbyists and the special interests in Washington.’”
“Well, the question you have to ask is, were you fighting for them when you were in the Senate? What did you do? Because I did something immediately upon arriving in the Senate, despite the fact that it wasn’t always a popular position to take.”
Obama’s remarks came the same day Edwards received the endorsement of Mari Culver, wife of Democratic Iowa Gov. Chet Culver. Edwards, Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York are locked in a three-way fight for the lead among Iowa Democrats, with the caucuses just over two weeks away.
In response to the Illinois senator’s remarks, the Edwards campaign sent reporters a transcript of remarks made by Obama strategist David Axelrod on CNN’s Crossfire in the spring of 2004, while he was an adviser to the then-senator. At the time, he said Edwards had “never taken a dime from lobbyists or PACs. He said, let's ban lobbyist money, so you can't give people a bill to pass in the day and a check at night. And that's how we're going to start changing the culture in Washington.”
Later Monday, Edwards himself responded to Obama. “But we do have a philosophical difference about this and I think it’s fair for caucus goers to know it. I mean I have never ever ever taken money from lobbyists or PACs – not just in this campaign, but ever," he said at a campaign event in Des Moines. Obama has accepted money from political action committees in the past, but has not during his presidential campaign.
–CNN’s Mike Roselli and Rebecca Sinderbrand