Edwards’ wife visits Columbia to rally support

Tuesday’s primary brought the senator’s wife to speak for him.
Sunday, February 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:50 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

In preparation for Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Elizabeth Edwards came to the Reynolds Alumni Center on behalf of her husband, presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards, to speak with Columbia residents Saturday.

State Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, both introduced Elizabeth Edwards to the crowd of more than 60 people and publicly announced his support for the senator.

“We’ve both been through tragic events in our lives, and I know that going through hard times makes you fearless,” Graham said. “That’s what we need in the White House, someone who’s not afraid to stand up.”

State Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, and a John Edwards supporter, was also present for the speech.

Elizabeth Edwards, who earned a degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a law degree from the UNC School of Law, began her speech by emphasizing her husband’s positive campaign and attitude.

“He is a total optimist,” Elizabeth Edwards said of her husband. “There was never a problem that he thought he couldn’t solve. No matter what the challenge, he’s always come out on the other side with a positive result.”

Although John Andersen said he has been a John Edwards supporter from the beginning, Edwards’ tendency to avoid mudslinging impressed Andersen.

“He seems to have risen above the fray in all of this,” Andersen said. “I also like his detailed platform. That’s something I think all candidates owe to the voters.”

Edwards wooed on rural voters

Elizabeth Edwards went on to describe John Edwards’ position on many issues and why he would be a good candidate for Missourians.

“Rural voters do not belong in the Republican Party,” Elizabeth Edwards said. “John has a rural agenda. He wants to make sure men and women don’t have to leave their rural homes to find jobs.”

The attention to rural America helped John Edwards win support from Boone County Commissioner Southern District Karen Miller.

“He came from a town of 900 people,” Miller said. “He has that background and recognizes rural issues. He will help keep us viable.”

John Edwards’ experience as a lawyer advocating for families and children was also stressed.

“John has had 20 years of experience fighting for real people,” Elizabeth Edwards said. “Experience in real life is important, and John is a fighter.”

Focused on electibility

Elizabeth Edwards also highlighted the need for a candidate who could win the Southern and Midwestern votes that will be crucial in winning the presidential election in November.

While there was strong support for John Edwards from those attending the speech, several of those present will not cast their vote for him.

Mike Naughton has firmly decided to support Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

“I came here in support of a good Democrat candidate, but I am not convinced about Edwards,” Naughton said.

Naughton, a Vietnam veteran like Kerry, said that he and Kerry had similar lines of thinking and that he has been a Kerry supporter since the 1970s.

Many voters still undecided

With the primary election only two days away, many voters are still struggling to pick their favorite candidate.

“I’m looking at Kerry, Edwards and Clark,” said Cathy Salter of southern Boone County.

Salter said she likes Kerry’s personal experience in Vietnam, Clark’s military background and Edwards’ positive energy.

“We need to fix the economy and deficit,” said Salter, who hoped attending the speech would help her narrow down the choices. “I think that Kerry, Clark and Edwards are three good, steady candidates with solid public service backgrounds.”

Also in town was Bill Wyatt, who is running in the Republican presidential primary.

Wyatt spoke to students at MU on Friday to see where they stood on things.

“I was trying to campaign and see what individuals were thinking about in terms of issues,” he said.

He said he came to MU because he has a friend there and it’s a great place to meet young people.

- Stacy King contributed to this report.

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