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Balancing left and center

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When Elizabeth Edwards chastised MoveOn.org for its full-page "General Betray Us" ad in The New York Times, was it an attempt to appeal to the political center or just good Southern manners?

MoveOn is a progressive organization with 3 million members that holds positions on the issues, including Iraq, which most closely mirror John Edwards' among the presidential candidates. But in an interview with an Iowa newspaper, Elizabeth Edwards said MoveOn went too far by casting its criticism of Gen. David Petraeus' congressional testimony as a personal insult. "Someone who's spent their life in the military doesn't deserve 'General Betray Us,'" she said.

Elizabeth spoke the day after John Edwards paid for time on MSNBC to rebut the President's Iraq speech. Edwards again called on Congress to end the war by refusing to appropriate more money without a timetable for withdrawal. The juxtaposition underlined the balancing act the Edwards campaign is attempting. Edwards is running hard to the left of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. But he's also arguing that he'd be the strongest candidate against the Republican nominee because he'd "expand the map" of winnable states into the South, suggesting a more centrist approach.

Edwards' answer? This week it was Elizabeth reminding voters that the South respects its military folk (her dad was a career Navy pilot, which wasn't mentioned in the interview) and minds its manners; meanwhile, John hones a message that's not so much liberal as it is traditional Southern populism: anti-corporate, anti-lobbyist and ultimately anti-Hillary. "Lord knows, we need a Democrat in the White House, but that's not enough," Edwards keeps saying. "I don't just want to replace a corporate Republican with a corporate Democrat."

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