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Edwards tries to catch Kerry in Wisconsin
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John Edwards spoke to more than 100 supporters in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. (MPR Photo/Erin Galbally)
Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards toured Wisconsin on Wednesday with stops in Janesville, Green Bay and LaCrosse. Edwards, a senator from North Carolina, continues to trail Democratic frontrunner John Kerry.

LaCrosse, Wisc. — After moving through a throng of more than 100 supporters, John Edwards took the stage at the Cartwright Center at the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse. He launched into whats become a familiar campaihn theme.

"You know it becomes pretty clear that Wisconsin voters deserve their reputation for independence. We're not going to have a coronation on Tuesday; we're going to have an election," he said.

It was about the only refrence Edwards made to his Democratic rivals during his 20-minute stump speech. Instead he talked about race relations and poverty. And again and again he returned to the economy. Edwards says he opposes trade agreements that have allowed U.S. employers to move jobs overseas. And Edwards lambasted a recent economic report released by the Bush administration that puts such job losses in a positive light.

"This is the White House talking. Outsourcing of American jobs in a good thing. 3.3 million jobs will by the year 2015 will be outsourced and they say this is a good thing. You know what the real solution to this is? To outsource this administration," he said.

Edwards says if elected he'll work to ensure jobs stay in America. He also says that companies who move jobs elsewhere will not receive cushy tax breaks.

He spoke about his humble beginnings as the son of millworker, and the first in his family to receive a college education.

Edwards told the crowd of made up largely of university students, that he's been called an underdog many times in the past only to come out on top.

And before leaving the stage he implored them to get behind his candidacy.

"I've been getting ready for this fight my entire life. I am so ready for this fight. You have to give me a shot at George Bush because if you give me a shot at George Bush, I'm going to give you the White House in the fall."

After Edwards left, sophomore Mark Mirocha and a group of friends waited in a cafeteria line just outside of the auditorium. He says he enjoyed listening to Edwards, but he's still not sure who will get his vote in Tuesday's primary.

"He didn't touch on a lot of key points, such as foreign policy, his stance of gay marriage, but he held himself well," he said.

He says he's also surprised that Edwards didn't spend more time talking about education and agriculture, two big issues in this western Wisconsin community. But Mirocha says overall he liked Edward's message.

Even as Edwards visited UW-Lacrosse, John Kerry supporters were opening their local office. Staffer Sarah Dale is from Oregon, but she's been working with Kerry in Iowa and New Mexico. She says recent polls have Kerry is surging some 20 points ahead of the other Democratic candidates. Even so Dale says there's still a lot of work to be done. That's why she and other staffers were preparing to host an open house that night for prospective volunteers.

"We need to do a lot of phone calling and door knocking in the next week or weeks. So we just want people to know what kind of opportunities, know what kind of opportunities there are and know what we need," she said.

Dale expected at least 50 local supporters at the open house. Still it's uncertain whether Kerry will make it to LaCrosse before primary day. Earlier this week former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean made a brief stop in the Mississippi River town, where he spent time visiting with local middle schoolers.

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