POLITICS

Edwards: Campaign Aides Insist He Won't Fizzle After Iowa

Des Moines --No matter the outcome in the Iowa caucuses, John Edwards' campaign insisted Wednesday that he has the resources to compete in New Hampshire, the other early states and "Tsunami Tuesday."

The Clinton and Obama camps are pushing the notion that the Edwards campaign can't survive Iowa, no matter if he wins, places or shows.

The Obama campaign, in particular, took aim at Edwards on Monday. Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe, in a briefing for reporters, drew a stark contrast between Obama's resources and those of Edwards in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and the Feb. 5 states.

It took them a day, but the Edwards team, realizing the devastating potential of a message that it can't win no matter what, dispatched campaign manager David Bonior to draw the most optimistic portrait of their strength Wednesday.

"We believe, to use an often-worn phrase, we are surging," Bonior said. Compared to the megabucks Obama and Clinton are raising, Edwards is cash-strapped, and is further hampered because he decided to take federal financing, which limits how much money he will have to spend.

In Iowa, Edwards had a major TV presence only with the assistance of third-party ads paid for by unions and by a group fronted by his ex-campaign manager. The Obama and Clinton people see this lack of cash as a key vulnerability.

If Edwards is to survive beyond the first several states, no matter how he places in Iowa on Thursday, his campaign will rely heavily on its supporters from organized labor.

Unions representing more than 3 million members have endorsed Edwards, and labor volunteers have been crucial to his get-out-the-vote efforts in Iowa and New Hampshire.

His aides sought to underscore that union strength, saying it was more useful than the large numbers of offices or staffers.

"Our over 3 million union members provide us with a tremendous capacity that puts us in an incredibly strong position," said Edwards senior adviser Chris Chafe. "First and foremost because they provide to us the kind of strength you'll never see on a balance sheet."

After Iowa, there is the Jan. 8 primary in New Hampshire, and the Nevada Caucuses on Jan. 19. Edwards has made The Silver State a pivotal part of his campaign game plan.

The former North Carolina Senator visited Nevada more often than any of the other Democrats in the race except Bill Richardson. He's got three offices in the state, and has won the backing of several crucial labor organizations, including the Carpenters, Steelworkers, Transport Workers and Communication Workers. Those unions represent 28,000 Nevada workers.

But aides to Edwards' chief rivals stress that he has no campaign beyond Nevada and South Carolina, a potential sign that the campaign does not have staying power beyond the early contests.

Twenty-two states go to the polls on Feb. 5 in a pseudo-national primary dubbed "Tsunami Tuesday" by the national press. Several delegate-rich states, including California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois are voting that day.

Obama, whose campaign has made a strong push in Feb. 5 states a central part of his game plan to win the Democratic nomination, has 28 offices in 17 of Tsunami Tuesday states.

The Edwards campaign currently has no offices in Feb. 5 states. The advisers on Wednesday's call with reporters would not say when the campaign would open any.

"We will make those announcements in due time, but obviously we are waiting some initial results before we make final decisions on those allocations," Chafe said.

Said Edwards' Nevada state director Oliver Gottfried: "We've heard a lot of the other campaigns talking about the most staff or the most offices or the most people at their events. It's not enough simply to have the most staff or the most offices, but you need to have an organization there that is well-rounded."

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