by Jim Tankersley
HAMPTON, N.H. – The Energizer Bunny has nothing on John Edwards.
The former senator is showing few signs of strain while barnstorming New Hampshire on a bus tour that began at mid-day Sunday and isn't scheduled to end until early Tuesday morning – his second up-all-night pre-vote blitz in the span of a week.
On a day when Barack Obama lost his voice and Hillary Clinton fought back tears, Edwards appeared at a late-afternoon rally in Hampton, on the seacoast, with his dark suit crisp, his hair unruffled and his voice largely intact. Campaign aides and reporters sleepwalked in ahead of him, some still recovering from Edwards' overnight bus tour leading into last week's Iowa caucuses.
The only signs of fatigue in Edwards were the occasional rasps in his southern twang and a slightly toned-down delivery of his still-fiery populist stump speech.
"Tonight, 47 million people will go to bed knowing if their child gets sick, they will have to go to the emergency room to beg for coverage," Edwards said, in a familiar riff from his anti-corporate, heavy-on-the-middle-class pitch. "Tomorrow morning, 37 million people will wake up in America, living in poverty and literally worrying about clothing and feeding their children."
Edwards urged the 100-odd supporters in a high school entryway to follow his lead and work hard to spread his gospel to friends and neighbors before polls close tomorrow night.
"You can ignite, here, tomorrow, a wave of change that sweeps across this country and literally can't be stopped," he said. In closing, he again declared himself an underdog: "We have an opportunity tomorrow," he said. "Nobody expects us to do anything. We're going to surprise people tomorrow."
In a brief interview after the event, Edwards said he was running on 30 to 60 minutes sleep, without the benefit of caffeine but with the aid of experience. "I've done this before," he said. "That's the secret … I'll get to sleep tonight."
A supporter stopped Edwards in front of his campaign bus and introduced him to a New Zealand diplomat, who was in town for the rally. The diplomat pumped Edwards' hand. "I don't know how you do it," he said, "but you're holding up well."