It's a cute and encouraging story - will make you smile.
First, how did
Columbus, Kentucky (pop 229) get John Edwards to visit?
A funny blog post
ON DEMAND: Speaking of Web campaigning, John Edwards is making a curious pit stop on Oct. 4 in the tiny town of Columbus, Ky. And by tiny, I mean practically uninhabited: 229 people live there. That gives them, what, 1/578 of an electoral vote?
The reason: Edwards held a "Demand and Be Heard" contest, promising to visit whichever city/town/hamlet most requested his presence on the event-planning site Eventful.com. Columbus won with 1,872 votes. (A spokesperson for the site says the town got help from people in the surrounding areas.) So now Edwards has to go, whether he likes it or not.
You'd think that might qualify as a good plan backfiring, but for Edwards, it sort of makes sense. Visiting a middle-of-nowhere crack in the American landscape is the kind of stunt that fits his small-town, populist image. I'll bet there's even a mill there.
Plus, the idea that people can influence where a candidate goes, even when they don't live in Iowa or New Hampshire, is compelling. Apparently both Obama and McCain have also been using the site to organize events. Think about what it says: Even his itinerary is democratic! Next thing you know we'll have a wiki-candidate, with thousands of users formulating people-powered platforms, designing bottom-up logos, and writing open-source speeches. Now that would be a man of the people.
It was all the doing of a woman called Shawn Dixon, apparently:
Why John Edwards Is In Columbus, Kentucky
The Edwards roadshow is in Paducah, Kentucky right now preparing the hour-long trip to the tiny river town of Columbus.
Kentucky isn't one of them early primary states, so it's not easy to figure out what "Bank It On Iowa" Edwards is doing here. In fact, the joke in these circles today is that it's some dirty trick pulled by Hillary Clinton's campaign to keep Edwards down for a day.
Not really. Actually, thank Shawn Dixon of Columbia. When the Edwards campaign used the event organizing site "Eventful.com" to run a contest -- Edwards would go where the people wanted him to go -- Dixon led the charge to bring Edwards to Columbus. In doing so, his efforts beat out Los Angeles and Seattle, among other cities.
So here we are.
Other than thanking the good people of Columbus, Edwards wants the news coverage to emphasize his popularity in this rural hamlet in a Southern state won twice by Bill Clinton. The implied message: "Could Hillary Clinton campaign here?"
And this is how it went - "schools let out early. Four of them made it a field trip for civic students. It seemed like the entire town of about 300 people showed up, and then some, because police officers thought the crowd exceeded 1,500".
Now if that isnt a hopeful sign of civic spirit..
Edwards, Out Of The Early States, In His Element
The last time Columbus, Kentucky was even mentioned in connection with a president was probably more than 200 years ago, when Thomas Jefferson tinkered with the idea of asking Congress to make this river city the capital of the country.
To see presidential candidate John Edwards, schools let out early. Four of them made it a field trip for civic students. It seemed like the entire town of about 300 people showed up, and then some, because police officers thought the crowd exceeded 1,500. The campaign brought the bar-b-que.
Edwards spoke on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. A restored Civil War cannon was anchored to the ground about ten feet away. He promised to speak for only a few minutes and answer questions, but then he took some luxury in knowing that these folks had probably never
heard his stump speech before.
"Rural America is who I am, part of who I am," he said, twice. "I know who you are. I care about what you care about." When [if] they see Edwards walk across the White House lawn, "I want you to say, that's my president. He believes in what I believe in." 25 minutes later, he was done.
Most of the crowd stayed to hear the question-and-answer session. Edwards was asked about health care, education, the Iraq war, nuclear power (a big local issue here), rural policies, the Arab Israeli conflict. At one point, Edwards tried a metaphor: "You don't make a hog better by weighing," he said, referring to No Child Left Behind testing metrics. The crowd laughed. That surprised Edwards - that line doesn't generally compute in New Hampshire and even parts of Iowa. "Kentucky's a place I can use that line."
Edwards was sweating heavily by the end of the speech. He spent the next twenty minutes shaking hands. He ducked into his campaign car, toweled off, grabbed a drink of cold war, and then bounded out to a small press conference with reporters.