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John Edwards at the press availability after the speech

As a strong Edwards supporter, it had not occurred to me that John Edwards might have a problem filling the Carpenters Union Hall. I badly wanted to see him speak here; naturally there would be many people like me. But early Saturday morning, at about 7:00 am waiting for the bus in single digit cold, I started to realize, “I am not a normal person.” Normal people don’t go out into the freezing morning cold to see a longshot presidential candidate; normal people sip their hot coffee in their warm living room watching morning TV. Better yet, normal people stay snuggled under warm blankets.

My fears were allayed when I arrived; there were already 30 people standing in line waiting for the doors to open 45 minutes later for a speech that wasn’t set to start until over 2 hours from then. That line quickly doubled and then tripled, and after doors opened, the room swelled with over 1000 people spilling into the foyer and into an overflow room in the back.  

A row of speakers warmed up the crowd. Alderman Stephen Gregali, St. Louis American City Editor Alvin Reid, State Senator Tim Green, State Senator Wes Shoemyer, House Minority Whip Connie Johnson, St. Louis Carpenters Council President Terry Nelson, and Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell each in turn made fiery speeches almost equal in passion to John Edwards himself. The main points that came across were: “John Edwards can win a general election against even John McCain” and “John Edwards is a fighter for the middle class of America.” Rep. Connie Johnson made some of these points, but she emphasized the personal connection John Edwards has with Missouri, as he has come back to Missouri several times since 2004 to campaign for downticket Dems and for ballot initiatives like the minimum wage increase.

St. Louis American City Editor Alvin Reid after the speech

State Senator (and family farmer) Wes Shoemyer

Attorney General candidate Rep. Jeff Harris works the crowd. He is not endorsing a presidential candidate.

John Edwards himself did not disappoint. Making his way through a throng to the right of the stage, he took the stage to deafening applause. My colleague hotflash, who was also in attendance, made the following notes:

“I have never taken a DIME from a lobbyist or a special interest group.”

“When did our party become the party of big money? When did we become the party that takes money from drug companies? from insurance companies? from Washington lobyists? The candidate taking more money from Washington lobbyists, Democrat or Rep., is not a Rep. It is a Democrat. The dandidate taking more money from drug companies, Democrat or Rep., is not a Rep. It’s a Democrat. Let me just say this, as your candidate and your nominee for president, that will not be me.”

E referred to Obama’s praise of Reagan as pres of change.  Reagan is “no example for change.” He did “everything in his power to break the organized labor movement.” he changed the tax structure to favor the wealthy. he deregulated industry as far as environmental laws.

(I don’t think he actually used Obama’s name for the following, but the reference was clear.) “we don’t really have to fight. You know, if you’re good to these people, if you’re nice,” you can get along with them. You can’t “nice these people to death.”

E concerned re global warming. Americans 4 % world population, use 25 % of its energy. Wants national cap on cargon emissions and make polluters pay.

Unlike Cl. and Ob. “dead against” building more nuclear power plants” and against building more coal-fired plants until  technology to clean them up can be used.

He wants to ask Americans to be “patriotic about something other than war.”

We must conserve. You “can’t spend and innovate your way of of this problem.”

Wants to stand on White House lawn and actually say the word “union”.

Minimum wage is finally $7.25. Ought to be at least $9.50.

“The first year that I am president I will end this war in Iraq.” no more combat missions, no permanent bases

“Suppose we had a president that believed in the United States Constitution and the bill of rights.” He’d close Guantanamo. no more illegal spying on the Amer. people. “No more debate in America about what kind of torture is permissible.”

“NAFTA CAFTA and these kinds of trade policies, they exist only for the purpose of destroying Amer. jobs.” E would “close that tax loophole that gives tax breaks to Amer. cos. sending jobs overseas.”

Health care woman finds lump in breast. what is she supposed to do? There’s no chemotherapy in emergency rooms.

Exxon $40 billion profit last year–world record for any corp.

Health insur. co. exec made $200 million

Conclusion: His parents and grandparents would have done anything to give him the chance at a better life. Everyone in audience has experienced that. We must take the reins and offer that same possibility to our children and grandchildren.

For a fuller picture of the speech, this video of his speech the previous night in Oklahoma City is very similar:

All in all, it was an electric atmosphere. I got the feeling from talking to people in the crowd that the majority of them were already committed Edwards supporters, which led to an even more charged response than there otherwise would have been. The task now for the Edwards campaign is mobilize these people and use that energy to bring others on board.