Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards rallied a filled-to-capacity Pioneer Courthouse Square last night, setting the tone for a public viewing the presidential debate to follow.
“Helloooo, Portland!” the exuberant Edwards bellowed, alternating between the thumbs up sign and self-deprecating gestures. When the crowd stopped cheering, he launched into a half-hour speech focusing on George W. Bush’s failure to deliver on critical promises to citizens.
“One of the reasons (Kerry) is going to win is that George Bush is out of touch with the American people,” Edwards said, pausing to let the crowd boo.
“You can’t fix a problem unless you recognize there is a problem,” he said, contrasting Bush’s inability to think of a mistake he’d made in office with a loss of jobs and health insurance in the past four years.
After initially telling a reporter he couldn’t think of a mistake he’d made in office, Bush faced the same question a few months later.
“After months to think about it, he still couldn’t think of a mistake he’d made,” Edwards said. “So all this was on purpose? After November, we’re going to give him all the time in the world to think about his mistakes.
Edwards delivered his statistics against Bush in a forceful tone, but always played to the crowd by following the numbers with humor.
“George Bush says he wants to be judged by his record. We want him to be judged on his record,” Edwards said after rattling off statistics of citizens losing health care and jobs and armed forces casualties in Iraq. “You know what would be good for our economy? Outsourcing George Bush.”
Edwards criticized Bush’s ties to large corporations over his loyalty to U.S. citizens. The Bush administration has consistently chosen to benefit drug manufacturers and oil companies over average citizens, he said.
“George Bush has been traveling all over this country and outlining his plan for health care,” Edwards said. “I understand it’s a very short speech. His health care plan for the last four years has evidently been ‘Pray you don’t get sick.'”
“They stand with big oil companies. They stand with the Saudi royal family. They stand with HMOs. If you stand with them, you can’t stand for the American people.”
“I don’t know if you caught this,” Edwards said, “but in last week’s debate, Bush said, ‘my time up yet?'”
The crowd responded enthusiastically as Edwards urged citizens to pass along the word that “hope is on the way.”
Edwards closed with an impassioned appeal to get out the vote. “John Kerry and I have been fighting our hearts out for you… But this is all, at the end of the day, up to you. We’re happy to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week, but we need your help. We need you making phone calls, getting people involved.”
His urge for people to volunteer echoed an even more urgent appeal by Rep. Darlene Hooley before Edwards’ arrival.
“We have 20 days ’til the election,” she said. “Your job in the next 20 days is to make sure everyone you know votes and that they make sure everyone they know votes too.”
Pointing out the many organizers in the crowd, Hooley said, “I know you’re busy. You’re busy with your jobs, you’re busy with school, you’re busy with your kids. I ask you to volunteer as many hours as you physically can. If you think you can only volunteer two hours, do four. If you think you can only telephone a few hours, do 10. I don’t want anyone after the election to have to say, ‘Gawrsh, if only I’d done a few more hours.'”
“You are the grassroots of this campaign.”