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Edwards Labels
Clinton an Insider

Edwards Labels
Clinton an Insider

Looking to cut into Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's lead in the Democratic presidential race, John Edwards is making an ardent push for voters to turn away from Washington insiders and what he condemns as a corrupt political system. Edwards railed against the ''bankrupt ways of Washington'' on Monday -- but his aim seemed less to target Republican president Bush's leadership than to cast fellow Democrat Clinton as the insider whom voters should reject.

Looking to shake up Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's lead in the Democratic presidential race, John Edwards is making an ardent push for voters to turn away from Washington insiders and what he condemns as a corrupt political system.

Edwards railed against the ''bankrupt ways of Washington'' on Monday in Manchester, NH -- but his aim seemed less to target Republican president Bush's leadership than to cast fellow Democrat Clinton as the insider whom voters should reject.

''This corruption did not begin yesterday, and it did not even begin with George Bush,'' Edwards said in speech excerpts provided by his campaign. ''It has been building for decades, until it now threatens literally the life of our democracy.''

''Let us blaze a new path together,'' said Edwards.

Edwards's scheduled appearance at Saint Anselm College comes as Clinton has been building strength toward the nomination in polling, fundraising and setting the agenda of the race.

She still has a vulnerability -- a tight race in the leadoff state of Iowa, where Edwards and Barack Obama are within striking distance in current polls -- but Edwards's support had dropped in a University of Iowa Hawkeye poll out Monday.

The poll had Clinton with 29%, Obama with 27%, and Edwards with 20%. Edwards was down six points from August.

Her lead is stronger in New Hampshire, the other early-voting state.

Clinton's campaign said Edwards was turning to attack politics.

''In 2004, John Edwards said, 'If you are looking for the candidate that will do the best job of attacking the other Democrats, I am not your guy,''' said Clinton spokesman Phil Singer. ''But now that his campaign has stalled, he's become that guy.''

With many voters unhappy with Bush's presidency, Democratic candidates have been promoting themselves as agents of change. That includes Clinton, but Edwards is challenging her and trying to make the race a referendum on who will bring real change to Washington.

''The truth is the system in Washington is corrupt,'' Edwards said.

The former North Carolina senator, who was John Kerry's running mate in 2004, said Clinton has refused to accept his challenge not to accept political donations from Washington lobbyists. Clinton has gained strength in the polls since Edwards started making that case several months ago, but he said he thinks it will make the difference in the election.

''I believe you cannot be for change and take money from the lobbyists who prevent change,'' Edwards said. ''And I believe that, if Americans have a choice, any candidate who takes their money -- Democrat or Republican -- will lose this election.''

Singer responded by questioning Edwards's ties to special interests. Edwards has taken donations from industries that employ federal lobbyists, though he doesn't take donations directly from the lobbyists themselves.

''If Mr. Edwards is so concerned about the influence of special interests, he should give back the hundreds of thousands of dollars he's taken from health care, securities, and insurance companies,'' Singer said. (Nedra Pickler, AP)

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