Elizabeth Edwards, Again, to the Rescue

Last night, the entire Edwards family showed up for a campaign event in Indianola, Iowa. Edwards gave a stump speech and answered some questions, while his wife and parents sat behind him and his kids watched a movie on the campaign bus.

At one point, a man in a blue jacket, who identified himself as a former legislator and Kucinich supporter, asked a long question about health care in which he basically lamented the fact that none of the candidates—except Kucinich—advocated a single-payer health care system.

Edwards then gave a long, detailed answer about his plan. He argued that part of it was set up as single-payer, but that it also gave Americans, many of whom did not want a single-payer system, more of a choice. He kept repeating that basic point in different ways, being careful not to offend any given side, when his wife stood up behind him.

“I didn’t even get through the first question,’’ Edwards said to laughter.

“Maybe she’s got the answer,” said the voter.

“I’m giving you the answer,” said Edwards in good humor.

“Not satisfactorily,” said the voter, while the crowd continued to laugh.

Edwards explained his plan further, offering more statistics and details about potential savings. Then, with Elizabeth Edwards still standing, he added “I better let my wife speak or else she’s gonna bust.”

“I’m not going to bust, but I want to say something,” she said. She proceeded to offer a focused, personal, and ultimately much more compelling explanation. Using her own experience undergoing chemotherapy, she argued that forcing everyone into a single-payer system could make patients who are in mid-treatment, like herself, uncomfortable. Politically speaking, she thinks that discomfort would also provide an issue that Republicans could use against Democrats in 2008.

“The insurance companies are going to be able to use that as a wedge again, as they did in 1993,” said Ms. Edwards, referring to the Harry and Louise ads that effectively killed the Clinton administration’s health care reform in 1993. “John takes that wedge away from them.”

“I think I’ll vote for you,” said the voter after she finished speaking, and it wasn’t clear to which of the Edwards’ he was speaking. He then slipped out before any reporters could get his name.

Elizabeth Edwards, Again, to the Rescue