Posted 11:57am February 7
by Vanessa Maltin
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
In the last debate before Tuesday’s seven-state primary, all seven presidential candidates gathered in Greenville, S.C. Thursday night, to debate the war in Iraq, the economy, health care and elect-ability.
Front-runner Sen. John Kerry and Vermont Governor Howard Dean spent the evening batting heads. Dean charged that during Kerry’s time in the Senate, he had not managed to pass any of the 11 health care bills that he sponsored. Kerry replied that if Dean had a better understanding of Congress, he would realize that many times senators see their ideas come to life in bills sponsored by other members.
“That is what I consider a real Washington answer,” Dean said.
But while Dean attacked Kerry, the Massachusetts senator spent the night attacking President Bush and showing Democrats why he is the best man to control the White House — a fact he will need to prove to voters if he is to obtain the Democratic nomination and face Bush in November.
“If I am president, I will bring jobs, health care, safety and more cops to the South,” Kerry said speaking directly to Southern voters. “I talk American — President Bush is the one who has to worry about winning the South.”
Sen. John Edwards also said he believes he will win the Southern states, giving him the “momentum” he needs to obtain the Democratic nomination. The first term, North Carolina senator said while his party historically makes the “mistake” of letting Republicans take Southern votes for granted, Democrats will expand and reach different races, genders and geographic areas in the 2004 Presidential election.
“The party has never elected a Democratic president without winning at least five Southern states,” Edwards said. “The South is a place I believe I will win and move forward from.”
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark said he will win some upcoming states and will stay in the race because he is not running as a Washington politician, but as a man who wants to change America.
Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman said he would win the nomination because he is the only moderate Democrat in the field — a trait some disagree with the Connecticut senator on.
“Lieberman’s campaign has grossly misunderstood the depth of the Democratic Party’s enormous dislike for President Bush,” said Alan Darius of Jupiter, Florida. “That is why candidates such as Kerry and Edwards have been able to capture a sense from the Democrats that even liberal philosophies are better than what they perceive to be Bush’s policies on the health care, economics and the war.”
In the past three months, more South Carolina workers lost their jobs than in any three-month period since the Great Depression. Edwards said this would be an important issue for South Carolina voters in Tuesday’s primary.
“It is unrealistic to stand up here and promise to stop people from losing jobs,” he said. “But we can impact the loss of jobs by slowing it down considerably.”
Edwards said he is the best man to fix employment problems across the country and specifically in the South because he can relate first hand to life around textile mills.
“The best starting place is to have a President who understands what these people are going through,” Edwards said.