California's early presidential primary has produced a bumper crop of candidates this week. Barack Obama Wednesday, both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards Thursday. KPCC's Special Correspondent Kitty Felde caught up with the Edwards campaign near Downtown L.A.
Kitty Felde: John Edwards was about an hour late when he took the stage atop a parking structure of a Service Employees International Union local. He was surrounded by union members and a trio of L.A. City Council members: Janice Hahn, Richard Alarcon, and the head of the California Edwards campaign, Herb Wesson.
Councilman Herb Wesson: When can you remember when California actually had an opportunity to make a difference in the primary for president? When?
[Sound of crowd cheering]
Felde: Edwards' speech hit familiar themes: Universal health care, no new nuclear power plants, and combat troops out of Iraq within a year. He told the crowd that America needs to be patriotic about something other than war.
John Edwards: We need a president who calls on the better angels of the American people. Who says we are in this together. And what we do together matters. And we have to be willing to sacrifice. We have to conserve in our homes, in our workplaces. We need to drive different kinds of vehicles. We need to be leading the way for the world in dealing with this global problem that's known as climate change.
Felde: Edwards, in a navy blue shirt with his sleeves rolled up, asked supporters to roll up their shirtsleeves as well, and work for his campaign.
Edwards: And what I'm asking you to do, listen, I know the reality. The reality is, I am an underdog campaign running against $200 million campaigns with massive publicity. But this is where you come in. Because you can help us here in California to start a movement.
[Sound of Edwards volunteers recruiting people to sign up]
Felde: In an alley nearby, campaign volunteers tried to capitalize on Edwards' call to action by signing up new recruits as they left the rally. Retired social studies teacher Sal Castro has worked on Democratic presidential campaigns since 1960. This time around, he says, he's an Edwards man because he believes both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama lack "electability."
Sal Castro (sighing): Sad to say, our country is still extremely racist. I don't think we're ready for an African American president. Great guy. Great potential leadership. Very qualified. But sad to say, this is not 2050. If they want to round us Mexicans up and send us all back, whether we're citizens or not, in spite of the fact that we've been here longer than the folks came over on the Mayflower – in fact, we didn't ask the folks when they got off the Mayflower for their green card – I mean, what can we expect?
Felde: John Edwards is running a distant third in the latest L.A. Times/CNN poll. But California is not a "winner take all" state. Edwards is counting on winning a sizable portion of the state's delegates so he can stick around for the next primary fight.