December 31st, 2007
01:06 PM ET
14 years ago

Edwards hits Obama: Too 'nice'

John Edwards campaigns in Iowa Sunday. (Photo Credit: AP)

(CNN) - Democrat John Edwards suggested to an Iowa audience Sunday that presidential rival Barack Obama is too 'nice' to battle Washington's special interests.

Speaking on the stump in Boone, Iowa, Edwards didn't mention the Illinois senator by name. But as he related his familiar campaign mantra of battling interest groups inside the beltway, he implied that Obama just wasn't up to the task.

"I hear people say you can sit at a table with these people, negotiate with them, and they will volunteer their power away," Edwards said. "That is a complete fantasy. You can't ‘nice’ these people to death."

Obama often says he has ability to bring people together while forging compromises, making the idea a major cornerstone of his campaign's 'change' theme.

Special interests " will never give their power away," Edwards said Sunday. "The only way we are going to get their power away, is we are going to take their power away from them, and we have an epic fight in front of us. …"You’d better send somebody into that arena who’s ready for the fight."

Edwards' jab is part of a days-long back-and-forth between the presidential rivals as they battle to be the ‘Clinton-alternative’ in Iowa. Several recent polls show the Democratic race there continues to be deadlocked between the two men and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Obama hit Edwards on his record over the weekend, suggesting the former North Carolina senator has changed his position on several key issues.

"We are less likely also to win an election with somebody who had one set of positions four years ago and has almost entirely different positions four years later," he said. "We've been through that."

Related video: Edwards appears on CNN's American Morning Monday

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Iowa • John Edwards
soundoff (135 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    Obama has no record at all.... he says he has a history of fighting corporate lobbyists? he fails to mention he has taken 1.5 million dollars from corporate interest groups during his senate run not to mention he has 8 corporate lobbyists on his staff. his "record" in the senate consists of missing the most votes of all the democratic candidates including votes on iran and children's health care.
    John Edwards is truly the best candidate to change our nation and fight for each and every one of us.

    December 31, 2007 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  2. Bimmer

    As a Canadian who has been following the US politics and every primary and presidential elections for more than 30 years, I would like to make the following observations:

    Edwards's message for fighting povert y sounds ridiculously at odds with his own extravagant life style. It did not work while he campaigned for the Democratic nomination in 2004 before Kerry picked him as a running mate for his doomed campaign for the white house against Bush. Americans will be smart enough again to figure out Edward's contradiction.

    Barack's heritage and use of illegal drugs will be the subject sof punishing negative attacks from the Republican nominee in the national campaign and deservedly so.

    In real life, just because one confesses to a murder in a memoir, does not prevent the police from arresting him or her. The message Barack is spreading is that it is OK to do drugs while you are young as long as you clean up later and confess in a book. Unfortunately Barack knows well how difficult it is to clean up later. The modern day corpoarte hiring philosophy is based on behaviour-based interviews, whose premise is that what one has done in the past will be reflected in the future. I wonder why the same phiolosphy should not apply to presidential candidates.

    Barak's heritage makes him weaker on fighting extremists. A case in point is his willingness to sit down with Iran's President unconditionllay. In a democracy, a politican's decision is not always based on what is good for the country but unfortunately based on one's constiuents' likings. That's why the Air Canada terrorists, who killed hundreds of innocent people in Canada in the early eighties, went unpunishied as the sheikh extremists were also the constituents of the then liberal Government.

    Furthermore, the slogan of change sounds great on TV and campaign trails, but change for worse is worse than the statusquo. Smoothness and charisma are convenient camouflages for politicians' weaknesses. Americans are again smart enough to figure this out. as it did not work for Ross Perrot in the 1992 electon.

    America and the democratic world will be better served with a US President who is intelligent, learnt from experiences and would be steadfast in fighting the biggest threat to human civilization since world war II –the terrorism.

    Neither Obama nor Edwards is strong enough to fight this war. They would be good choices for the US senate but not for the country and the world satge.

    December 31, 2007 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  3. Ev

    Nothing gets accomplished through bluster and bombast, as has been proven over the last fifteen years of partisan gridlock in Washington. Voices need to be lowered if you actually want to hear what the other person is saying. I think it's time for reasonable people to sit down, talk openly and actually try to accomplish something for the American people. The Edwards approach of "fight" has already been tried and failed innumerable times. It's tme to turn the page!

    December 31, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  4. John, So.Dak.

    Yup, Vote Edwards. Lisa's right. It takes hard work, honesty and a tough stance to hold back the special interest groups and lobbyists while supporting the middle class and working poor. Edwards has the right stuff.

    Also, you can't charm The Vladimir Putins of this world by looking into the eyes and reading the souls of the Ex-KGB agents or the nuts in control of countries like Iraq and North Korea. Edwards has the strength, intelligence and tact which Obama and Hillary lack.

    December 31, 2007 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  5. DJ, new york, ny

    Obama is not too nice, he is just too timid. Remember that is what he admitted when asked during the Iowa debate about his new year resolution. Yeah, he is too naive too.

    December 31, 2007 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. Dave, Evergreen CO

    Edwards says Obama is too nice, Romney said he is too honest. Sounds to me like he's just what America needs.

    December 31, 2007 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. rjj

    "Obama will unite us and democracy."

    Absolutely (so to speak). Just as Ralph Nader did.

    December 31, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  8. Grant Devereaux

    Stace – you said Edwards wants to take the "peoples" power away. No Sweetheart, Edwards wants to protect morons like you from the corrupt global corporations who are invading your privacy ( at&t, Yahoo,AOL, Sprint, Google) stealing your money ( Most brokerage houses and all banks), forcing down your wages ( in real dollars they have declined dramatically the last 7 years), dumbing down education, stealing elections (Diebold, can you hear me?) charging 40% interest rates on loans and corrupting our government with multi-million dollar payoffs through their lobbyists.

    Now practice your exercises.. Remember, it's breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. No Sweetie, breathe in, then out! Oh Dear. You MUST breathe in every other time. Never breathe out twice in a row. You cannot forget this.

    Bless your heart, Stace – you shouldn't be let out on your own. Go find your keeper.

    December 31, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  9. matt chris

    How is a vote for edwards = votes for hillary?? when JRE LEADS in IOWA according to the latest Mason-Dixon poll (

    EDWARDS had gained major ground over the last couple of weeks and the race is wide open.

    'it's John Edwards - not Clinton and not Obama - who simply wipes the floor with the whole GOP field. "Edwards is the only Democrat who beats all four Republicans," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director'- according to CNN Poll (

    December 31, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. Agnostic

    I agree, the headline is a poor choice

    December 31, 2007 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. Ryan, New Jersey

    I'm sorry, but I just can't get excited by him, nor can I get excited about electing another southern politician to the White House. Edwards is all bluster. I'll take him over Hillary, but that's not saying much. Give me Obama, Iowa!

    December 31, 2007 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  12. bz

    Special interests?

    I don't hear Edwards use the words "special interests". I see the press putting that term in his mouth and then beating him over the head with it when he doesn't come down all special interests. What is he actually referring to? Corporate greed, big oil and insurance companies.

    December 31, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  13. Jon

    Awesome posting, seriously. Makes me wonder if you are "The Ax" himself, but maybe I'm just giving you too much credit. One of the few well-written, well-reasoned and actually persuasive postings on this entire blog. Most of the postings are from foaming-at-the-mouth opinion spouters saying the same cheap lines over and over. If you're not already working for them, you should email that to the Obama campaign, get yourself a new job.

    For my money, I'll take either one, Edwards or Obama. I don't think we should demonize Hillary too much either, since we'll definitely have to root for her against Slick Mitt in the general election if he wins. But definitely, there's no need for animosity among Obama-Edwards supporters. These guys are both gonna be great. Think about it, what choice does Edwards have to make a distinction against Obama? It's not like he's slamming him inappropriately. I think he's doing a good job presenting what he really believes in. I don't think he's going to be some crazy hothead in the White House. He's trying to win an election, and is making the point that he is truly committed to this and has a record of fighting against these interests, which is true.

    I think all these people overreacting to a comment about being 'nice' are out of control. First of all CNN made up the headline. Sure, it was a reference to him being nice but it was hardly a severe attack. These guys are on the same team. Hopefully they will be on the same dem ticket in November crushing Say-Anything Mitt. Now that guy is scary. We'll see what happens in Iowa.

    December 31, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  14. rosaadriana

    Neither Obama or Hillary can win a general election folks. Can we please nominate a real candidate this time. Another 4 or 8 years of a Republican will ruin this country beyond repair. We cannot take another year, Iowa, please don't screw it up for the rest of us!

    December 31, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  15. bob zemky

    I agree also with Anonymous above:

    This headline is false.

    " Ticker: Edwards: Obama too 'nice' to be prez "

    He never said it. The headline implies he actually said it.

    December 31, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  16. MAH

    Edward sounds more like Chavez and/or Castro. This will not work here. Also, his 360 degree shift in almost every issues within last four years is something I do not like. Hillary cannot win, as she is too much of a polarizing figure. She has the most disapproval ratings. Definitely a recipe for a failiure for democrats.

    I am leaning towards Obama (even though he is very new and lacks experience...)

    December 31, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  17. Chris S - Gerald, MO

    Standing your ground and not being a push-over do not necessarily equate to being "mean-spirited" as some people above are trying to suggest. I am glad John recognizes the difference here and is assuring us he will stand his ground on this issue.

    Also, why do people constantly knock John for being a millionaire? So what if he earned his millions as a trial lawyer, the majority need one at some point or another. John grew up without, much like the rest of the nation and decided he would change his fortune.....GREAT! How many people don't want the same for themselves? Isn't that the American dream? For all the posters who continually berate they guy for his wealth, how many of you would turn down a job earning millions if offered? John has a quality most of the other candidates do not, Democrat or Republican, he was once poor too.

    Give 'em hell John!
    EDWARDS '08

    December 31, 2007 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  18. jay columbia, sc

    Edwards had his chance in 04 and couldnt do it. Please Vote Obama 08

    December 31, 2007 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. try all you want


    December 31, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  20. corporate media is dying

    Glenn Beck?? Why??

    December 31, 2007 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  21. Susan Hicks

    I couldn't have said it better, Jonnie rae, well done. America is exhausted from the divisiveness and fear-mongering in Washington. We feel helpless as we watch our beloved nation go down the tubes with the corruption and special interests ruling.

    We need Barack Obama, he is each and every one of us. And he is the ONLY democratic candidate who can take both the primary and general elections. Want another Republican White House? Vote Hillary. Or Edwards. The republicans want to run against Hillary so they can rip her apart in the general. Something they can not do to Obama.

    God Bless America! Obama 08!

    December 31, 2007 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  22. norm san diego

    My grandfather, a lifelong Domocrat, voted for FDR and HST. He must be spinning in his grave at the sight of the crew all running this time around. How sad. I won't be voting unless the Reps. can come up with an anti-Bush candidate who has the nation's interests first and foremost and can keep us out of any more Iraq situations.

    December 31, 2007 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  23. Julie, Atlanta, GA

    I'm supporting John Edwards because HE SUPPORTS ME. He hasn't had anything handed to him (unlike the Decider, mr. silver spoon in the mouth) and he's earned every single thing he has. He'll use that determination to fight for US. Wake up, America...Hillary CANNOT beat the repub nominee (her unfavorables are almost higher than her favorables) and Barack? Please.

    Isn't it time we take our country back!?!? It belongs to US, you know. To YOU and to ME. Go John Edwards GO......I've supported you since 2004 and I'm so proud to say that you're my guy all the way – can't want to see you and Elizabeth in OUR White House!!!

    December 31, 2007 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. Fair,Washington DC

    Barack's likeability results on Bill O'Reilly have been more than double Edwards and more than triple Hillary's. Check out his website. These results are the same 7/07 to 12/07. The significance is that the viewers are ultra conservative. Democrats will need Republican votes. Furthermore, Edwards’s numbers fall when he goes on the offensive, but Barack's climbed. Remember the Nevada Democratic debate? Edwards’s numbers fell and Barack's went up. The media kept saying how Iowa punishes a negative campaign. Barack was punished for lies about his faith. Barack has always been a Christian and those lies wouldn't hold up under national scrutiny. This is about ability, not survivability (experience). I read that Iowa's SAT scores were highest in the nation.What if Iowa’s SAT scores were discounted? They say nothing about experience but everything about ability. What if Iowa’s sports teams had to forfeit the game before it started to the more experienced team?

    Well you can look at Obama being the darling of not just Bill O'Reilly, but the whole Fox Network audience as some kinda of positive all you want. Thats your right and opinion. My opinion is of course they want Obama to stop Hillary in this primary and mop the floor with him in the general. Your logic seems to be that all theses conservative Republicans are just going to forget their conservative agenda and vote for Obama because he is just the "Chosen One". Sorry, to be the pessimist here, but I think you've been drinking the Obama kool-aid a lil too much.

    December 31, 2007 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  25. Coney

    John Edwards isn't hand picked by a billionaire talk show host and isn't riding on the shirt tails of their husband. Let's vote for a man who can make a good president on his own power. He is for the middle class which has all but vanished since the Bush presidency. He would have been the Vice President the past 4 years if the election of 2004 had been a true vote of the American people. I feel sorry for the people who think they should vote for Hillary just because it is time for a woman. Perhaps that is true, but not this woman! How can she run a Country when she didn't have the guts to leave her husband who publicly had an affair of sorts in front of the entire Nation? Come on people, vote with intelligence and allow a good, sound family man to run our Country. It is time!

    December 31, 2007 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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