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Iowa: Edwards' Mo'

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The following piece was produced by HuffPost's OffTheBus.

Des Moines -- Hillary Clinton won the Des Moines Register endorsement over the weekend, but Iowa's First Lady Mari Culver threw her popularity and support to John Edwards, promising to campaign for him across the state and breathing a renewed sense of hope into Edwards' bid to win the January 3 caucus.

"I believe John Edwards can win!" said Mari Culver before a crowd of about 400 in downtown Des Moines over the noon hour today.

Mrs. Culver's reasons for endorsing Edwards: He is a great public servant with a very compelling personal story, and he's right on the issues that matter most.

The crowd, many of them men wearing black United Steelworkers jackets and T-shirts, led the crowd waiting for the candidate by cheering, "We love Elizabeth. We love John. We want to see them on the White House lawn."

John Campbell, political organizer for the steelworkers, said, "I'm very happy where we are in Iowa. With the endorsement of Mari Culver and several other choice endorsements and our good statewide organization, it's a good sign. We've got 8,000 members in the state and they're motivated to get out and attend their caucus for John."

The United Steel Workers endorsed Congressman Dick Gephardt during the last cycle and all the union support he received couldn't help Gephardt. Gephardt retired his presidential ambitions after his dismal showing in the Iowa caucuses.

Supported by five major unions in the state, Edwards repeated his stump speech calling for those present to "take back America" by voting for him in the upcoming caucus.

While most of the crowd seemed to be hardcore Edwards' supporters, Don Piper, an IT professional at Principal Financial Group, walked into the event in his running clothes.

"I am in between Edwards and Joe Biden. I like a lot of his [Edwards] policies but he sounds too angry and I think he has to be willing to work with others to get anything done."

Des Moines attorney Robert Oberllig caucused for Edwards in 2004. He said of Edwards: "He's right on most issues. I don't think we can bring about change if you're too confrontational like he is. I'm not sure who to caucus for. It's between Edwards, Hillary, and Obama."

Edwards is releasing a new TV ad calling on voters to 'fight' and committing to be the president who will fight for Democratic voters.

After the event, OffTheBus asked Edwards if his confrontational style would hinder him from getting anything done in Washington.

Edwards answered - sort of - by saying he didn't believe that anything would change by having the big insurance companies and drug companies and corporations at the table.

John Edwards has always been a heat seeking populist missile on the campaign trail. In these final 17 days, though, he has turned up the heat by snagging endorsements like Mari Culver, reminding Iowans that he has been here for years, and continuing his personal narrative of fighting for the 'little' guy despite his millionaire status.

During the 2004 cycle, the Des Moines Register's late endorsement of John Edwards helped him score an impressive second place win in the Iowa caucuses.

OffTheBus asked Edwards' Iowa co-chair Rob Tully how he felt about the Register's endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

Tully said, "We were disappointed with the Register endorsement, but we weren't surprised. They've given her preferential treatment all along. The media isn't getting the story out that she has taken more money from special interests, lobbyists, and the health care industry than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat."

"Edwards has caught the 'Mo' [momentum] at just the right time. We had bigger crowds all weekend than Barack Obama. John's message is coming through," said Tully.

'Mo' is a big factor in this horse race with only three weeks to go before the caucuses.

It may or may not be true that Edwards is catching the 'Mo' but one thing is certain - nothing is certain and no one is being counted out. Certainly, not John Edwards.

He is slightly behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but still within striking distance.

His photograph on the front page of Newsweek, Mari Culver's endorsement, big union support, experienced caucus captains, not to mention his goodwill, all add up to a stealth campaign strategy that could put Edwards on top, especially with Clinton surrogates attacking Obama on the campaign trial in Iowa and on national TV programs like Charlie Rose.

Stay tuned. As far as 'fighting' goes, they'll be more fighting on the ground in Iowa within the Democratic field than with the Republicans