Dubuque, Iowa - Amid a heavy snow storm Friday afternoon, an overflow crowd of several hundred supporters bundled into a meeting hall in this economically battered town to hear candidate John Edwards escalate his closing campaign message of opposing "corporate greed" and denounce what he called a "small group of profiteers" dominating American life.
"Everything about America is threatened today...this is an epic struggle for the future of America," Edwards told the cheering crowd. "Corporate greed and the very powerful use their money to control Washington and this corrupting influence is destroying the middle class."
While all of the presidential campaigns have refocused to some degree on foreign policy in the wake of the murder of Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, Edwards is keeping his message of economic fairness front and center during the final week of campaigning here. "We will defeat greed and fear - and strike a blow for working people, for those with no voice, for those Washington has ignored too long." Edwards made no mention of the Pakistani crisis in his newly re-tooled stump speech.
While Edwards has consistently campaigned on an economically populist program, his speech today in Dubuque was marked by a noticeable ratcheting up and radicalization of his critique of corporate wealth and power.
"Why on earth would we expect the corporate powers and their lobbyists, who make billions by selling out the middle-class, to just give up their power because we ask them nicely?" Edwards asked. He made no mention of rivals Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in today's speech; in the past, he has slammed Clinton for being too indebted to powerful Washington lobbies.
Edwards is in the midst of a final 38-county push to win next Thursday's Iowa caucuses. Even his own supporters will concede that taking Iowa is a do-or-die must for a campaign running third in national polls, but in a virtual dead heat in the Hawkeye State with rivals Clinton and Obama.
Nestled on the gritty Illinois border, Dubuque has been hit hard by the collapse in American manufacturing jobs and offers itself as a perfect venue for Edwards' message of economic fairness. The local Flexsteel plant has lost about two-thirds of its 800 jobs over the past decade. Paper maker Georgia Pacific, another big employer in town, has also been hit hard by job exports.
"Iowa has lost twice as many jobs to unfair trade deals than it's won in the so-called technological revolution," Edwards adviser Dave "Mudcat" Saunders told the HuffPost before today's event started. "What kind of revolution is that?" Saunders said Edwards would stay on his message of opposing "unchecked greed" and that it was a theme that resonated deeply throughout the state.