Rock star John Mellencamp performs during the last stop of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards 36-hour bus tour around Iowa on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 in West Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
by John Chase
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa—Presidential hopeful John Edwards capped a 36-hour, 16-stop tour of Iowa on Wednesday by declaring at a rock concert that he was the only candidate who could fight corporate greed and represent the common American worker.
With Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses just hours away, the former Democratic senator from North Carolina held a large rally as the topper of his “Marathon for the Middle Class” tour and used rocker John Mellencamp as a final lure to engage the electorate.
“Corporate greed is robbing our children of the promise of America and it is time for us to fight back,” Edwards told a raucous crowd. “And right here, beginning in the heartland of America, here in Iowa, you’re going to rise up, you’re going to stand up, you’re going to speak up and you’re going to say to America, ‘Enough is enough, we want our country back, we want our democracy back, we are better than this.’”
After performing five of his songs, many with political undertones, Mellencamp introduced Edwards’ family at the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines and said he’s known Edwards for several years and believes he’s the best candidate for president.
“He’s always said the right things to me,” Mellencamp said.
During a solo performance of “Pink Houses,” the crowd cheered wildly when Mellencamp sang a line from the song: “Boy, you’re gonna’ be president.”
Introducing her husband, Elizabeth Edwards declared Mellencamp was the “musical voice of the working man of this country,” and said her husband was the “political voice of the working man of this country.”
In November, Mellencamp brought Edwards out on stage during a concert in Des Moines where Edwards was jeered for a few minutes by concertgoers who clearly weren’t interested in listening to a political speech.
But none of that was evident Wednesday’s event, which was geared more as an Edwards event where Mellencamp also happened to be performing.
“I felt like that was very rude at that concert,” declared Leslie Irvin, a 54-year-old self-employed Edwards supporter who saw the November show and was also at Wednesday’s event, later correctly predicting: “But you won’t see that tonight.”
Indeed, the crowd, which ranged from teenagers to 50-something Mellencamp addicts, still seemed more enthused about the politician than the performer.
Edwards and Mellencamp say they are friends and the singer is endorsing Edwards’ run for president, which has relied heavily on his theme of fighting corporate America in favor of the interests of the working class.
One of Edwards’ main musical campaign themes is Mellencamp’s song, “Our Country,” a song Mellencamp sang Wednesday night and one he also has sold to auto giant Chevy for TV commercials.
It isn’t the first time a popular Edwards supporter has had close ties to the corporate world he so steadfastly blasts on the campaign trail.
Over the summer, seven-time Tour de France champ and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong rode his bike side-by-side with Edwards during a statewide bike tour. But he disagreed with the former North Carolina senator about whether drug companies should be at the negotiating table when it comes to developing and enacting a national health care plan, something Edwards opposes.
Among Armstrong’s biggest corporate sponsors is Bristol-Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical company that he has credited with helping save his life.
“I don’t believe you can sit at a table and negotiate with drug companies, insurance companies, oil companies and hope that they will voluntarily give their power away,” Edwards said. “We will get their power out of their hands when we take their power away from them.”
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