CBS’s Smith: ‘Harsh’ Edwards Can’t ‘Chip Away’ at Hillary

In an interview with Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith wondered how Edwards could possibly have a chance against Hillary Clinton’s perfect campaign: "This woman's got numbers, she's got money, she's got name recognition. I mean, how do you begin to even chip away at that?"

As Smith began the segment, he went so far as speak of the "harshness" of Edwards’ Campaign, a term usually reserved for the Republican field: "His harshest rhetoric is reserved for front-runner, Hillary Clinton. As you go forward then, do you ratchet up the rhetoric?"

The "rhetoric" which Smith referred to was Edwards' condemnation of Clinton for taking soft money donations, "she thinks it's fine to take most of dollars from Washington lobbyists." Quick to Hillary’s defense, Smith asked Edwards "You don't take money from any lobbyists?" Of course Edwards’ response, "I don't take money from lobbyists. Never have," was probably hard for him to say with a straight face given various donations from special interests, particularly when he teamed up with John Kerry in 2004. According to "The Washington Post":

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who has made a fight against corporate special interests a centerpiece of his front-running campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, has raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator over the past 15 years, federal records show...All the presidential candidates take money from special interests, including Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), who like Kerry has targeted corporations and lobbyists in his stump speeches.

Making obvious his belief that Hillary’s nomination is inevitable, Smith asked, "Do you think Hillary can't win?" Normally a true journalist would wonder if a candidate could win, not the other way around.

Trying to portray how hopeless the Edwards Campaign has become against the Clinton juggernaut, Smith continued to press Edwards:

HARRY SMITH: Your message of -- sort of populist driven message -- is it just not resonating with enough people?

EDWARDS: Oh, no. They just have to hear it. I've been through this before. I know how it works. Early on, celebrity seems to control.

SMITH: But time is short.

EDWARDS: Iowa and New Hampshire. They're actually looking at us, looking at us hard.

SMITH: Just over two months till the voting starts. Clock's ticking again now.

In an effort to cheer up Edwards, Smith ended with, "John Edwards has been down this road before, running unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination and unsuccessfully as a running mate. It's a lot of miles, a lot of motels, and some days even he wonders."

Here is the full transcript of the 7:41am segment:

HARRY SMITH: Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards may be lagging in some polls, but he is still up for a fight, especially with Senator Hillary Clinton. We were with Edwards yesterday in New Hampshire.

JOHN EDWARDS: Senator Clinton's road to the middle class takes a major detour, right through the deep canyon of corporate lobbyists and the hidden bidding of K Street in Washington. And history tells us that when that bus stops there, it's the middle class that loses.

SMITH: It's a big Democratic field, but you'd never know it listening to John Edwards.

EDWARDS: And today, Senator Clinton has taken more money from Washington lobbyists than any candidate from either party, more money than any Republican candidate.

SMITH: His harshest rhetoric is reserved for front-runner, Hillary Clinton. As you go forward then, do you ratchet up the rhetoric? This woman's got numbers, she's got money, she's got name recognition. I mean, how do you begin to even chip away at that?

EDWARDS: You make sure that people understand that she's still defending the status quo, that she believes the system in Washington works just fine, that she thinks it's fine to take most of dollars from Washington lobbyists and even defends Washington lobbyists.

SMITH: You don't?

EDWARDS: I don't believe in any of those things.

SMITH: You don't take money from any lobbyists?

EDWARDS: I don't take money from lobbyists. Never have.

SMITH: Do you think Hillary can't win?

EDWARDS: I don't know the answer to that. I honestly don't know. I know that there's a great deal of division in America about it, because I hear it all the time.

SMITH: Edwards has collected an impressive array of union endorsements, but he still trails in the national polls. More importantly, he trails in Iowa and here in New Hampshire. Your message of -- sort of populist driven message -- is it just not resonating with enough people?

EDWARDS: Oh, no. They just have to hear it. I've been through this before. I know how it works. Early on, celebrity seems to control.

SMITH: But time is short.

EDWARDS: Iowa and New Hampshire. They're actually looking at us, looking at us hard.

SMITH: Just over two months till the voting starts. Clock's ticking again now.

EDWARDS: Well, if you look at what's happened in Iowa, Senator Obama spent $4 or $5 million on television, Senator Clinton spent several million. I haven't run a single television ad yet and we still got a couple of months. I mean, I think when we started to move last time was about the last three weeks, and I think that you're going to see movement in the last two or three weeks this time.

SMITH: Even in Edwards' home state of South Carolina, he has new competition.

BOB COBLE: We're honored to welcome South Carolina's favorite son.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Mr. Mayor, thank you so much. I accept your proclamation naming me South Carolina's favorite son. Citizens of Columbia, I grew up in South Carolina. And I continue to spend a great deal of time here. In fact, if the IRS asks, we do this every weekend.

SMITH: Stephen Colbert, though, is trying to dispute whether or not you're the favorite son --

[Laughter]

EDWARDS: In South Carolina. Yeah. I don't know. I'm taking Colbert out. I want to find out if he's really the native son.

SMITH: John Edwards has been down this road before, running unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination and unsuccessfully as a running mate. It's a lot of miles, a lot of motels, and some days even he wonders. When you get out of bed in the morning, what's the first thing you think about?

EDWARDS: [Laughter] What am I doing? Too often, that's what I think about. Where am I and what am I doing?

SMITH: Edwards and the other Democrats have another debate tonight in Philadelphia.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC