Mr. Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, said that Mr. Edwards did not have the same responsibilities and commitments as an elected official.
“Certainly Senator Edwards, as someone who left elective office to run for president, has more flexibility,” he said, before adding that there was “nothing path-breaking about the proposals he is making.”
The only thing Mr. Edwards had achieved by being first with a health plan, an Iraq plan or a concrete proposal on the minimum wage, both campaigns said, was to be first. They would have gotten around to making their own proposals regardless of what Mr. Edwards did.
In the van, Mr. Edwards reacted angrily to that notion.
“Get to them when?” asked Mr. Edwards, when confronted with that logic. “When you start a campaign for the presidency of the United States you better have a very clear idea about what you want to do as president from day one.”
At this point, Mr. Edwards’ wife Elizabeth—who is one of the campaign’s best draws and who acts as her husband’s closest adviser—jumped in. “This tells you something about how he will be as president. He is not going to wait and drag his feet on these issues,” she said. “And I think it tells you a great deal about his style of leadership.”
She said that none of her husband’s positions were the result of political calculation, and that if anything, Mr. Edwards was the one candidate among the front-runners whose political positions reflected his life’s work.
“This is not something we came to recently. And what’s more—it is the story, unlike, I think, every candidate except Dennis Kucinich—this is actually the story of his life,” she said. “This is not a coat you put on for the campaign. This is something inside him.”
“This is who I am,” Mr. Edwards added. “I would do this if I weren’t running for president.”