Saturday, November 10, 2007

Courage over caution: Caucus4Priorities endorses Edwards

Edwards Picked Over Obama as 'The Un-Hillary'

Caucus4Priorities, a group seeking to redirect spending from the Pentagon to domestic needs, plans to endorse John Edwards Friday in Des Moines.

The decision to endorse Edwards over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama came down to "courage versus caution," according to the group's executive director.

"There's a rhetoric gap with Obama," executive director Peggy Huppert told ABC News. "He told me personally: 'Trust me. Ideologically, I'm with you.' But people have told him to be afraid of being pushed too far to the left. He doesn't bring up [cuts in Pentagon spending] on his own. He doesn't incorporate it into his speeches. He skirts around it. He talks around the edges. He never gets to the heart of it in strong, bold language."

Edwards, by contrast, won over the group with his harder edge.

He impressed the group on Oct. 26 when he demonstrated during an Iowa town-hall meeting that he would not back down in the face of Republican attacks. The day before, during an interview with a conservative talk-show host, Giuliani said that Democratic support for lower Pentagon spending showed a lack of concern for what Giuliani calls "the terrorists' war on us."

"Edwards gave an excellent answer," said Huppert. "He said we have to stop buying into their frame which equates spending money on the Pentagon with keeping us safe. He also said we can't have a Democratic candidate who cowers and runs away from this issue."

"For whatever reason," she said, "John Edwards has decided he is going to take this on and he has staked out the position quite convincingly of being the un-Hillary."

Although Clinton filled out the group's detailed policy questionnaire, she was not among the final two candidates under consideration for the endorsement.

"She didn't answer any questions 'yes' or 'no,'" said Huppert. "She has a refusal to commit to anything."


The overriding goal of Caucus4Priorities, a group whose logo is a pie chart showing how Pentagon spending dwarfs domestic discretionary spending, is to redirect $60 billion in federal funds away from the Pentagon and toward education, health care, energy independence, job training and deficit reduction.

Its endorsement was coveted by the Democratic presidential hopefuls, all of who filled out the group's questionnaire, because it has found 10,000 Iowans who have signed a nonbinding pledge to caucus on behalf of the candidate endorsed by the organization.

"We're not going to change people's minds," said Huppert, referring to people who have decided to support someone other than Edwards since filling out a Caucus4Priorities pledge card. "But we hope to shore up support for Edwards and to be a tipping point for people who are still undecided."

The names given by 28 percent of the 10,000 "pledgers" are exact matches with Iowans who have participated in previous Democratic caucuses.

This group is the Iowa arm of the Priorities Action Fund.

"We have lots of friends in this race but only one champion," wrote Ben Cohen, creator of Priorities Action Fund and the founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. "Without question, John Edwards is the most committed and best prepared to bring about the kind of real change Washington desperately needs. John Edwards is uniquely qualified to take on Washington lobbyists and defense contractors and break the stranglehold they have on the nation's pocketbook and reins of power." The group took into account electability, a questionnaire, and an online poll of the 10,000 pledges.

You know Ben & Jerry's, the ice cream brand where Stephen Colbert has his own flavor, the Americone Dream.

Oh, and since we had the EMILY's List training a few weeks ago, I thought I'd throw this out there too. Kate Michelman, the President of NARAL for 20 years, retired from her position at NARAL to become a senior adviser to the Edwards campaign.

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