DES MOINES, Iowa – Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards (search) vowed Sunday to defeat President Bush across "my back yard" in the South as he strained to convert late campaign enthusiasm into an Iowa caucus surprise.
"The South is not George Bush's back yard," he said of the Texas-reared president. "It is my back yard and I will beat George Bush in my back yard, and you can take it to the bank," Edwards said as he neared the end of a final day of campaigning before Monday's caucuses.
Edwards also closed out his Iowa (search) campaign with a pledge to rid the government of special privileges for the rich and powerful. "When I am president, we'll restore this back to you," he said.
Edwards campaigned his way across the eastern part of the state during the day, hoping that recent polls showing increased support were a harbinger of a caucus-day surge.
Edwards, a first-term North Carolina (search) senator, is the only candidate in the race from the South, a region where Republicans run strongly and that figures to be the anchor of Bush's re-election strategy.
Not everyone was instantly persuaded by his appeal.
Bettie Spaight, of Cedar Rapids, said she liked what she saw, but remained undecided.
"He's very passionate," said Spaight, a retired commercial artist. "He seems like more of a fighter than I thought."
Spaight said there are things she likes about all the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"If we could have a little bit of each of them in one candidate, that would be ideal," she said.
It's voters such as Spaight that Edwards hoped to reach in his final blitz before Monday's caucuses. His campaign has been buoyed by unprecedented turnout the past few days, including about 400 people at Sunday's rally.
The latest polls showed a statistical tie involving four candidates -- Edwards, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri.
Some voters at the rally already had their minds made up.
"I decided on Senator Edwards a few weeks ago," said Mike Ivins, a state employee from Cedar Rapids. "He seems to be a really honest, straightforward and laid-back person."
But others are still up for grabs and say they probably won't decide for sure until they walk into their caucus Monday night.
"I was leaning toward Dean, but I've had some questions about his temperament," said Frances Roushar, of Cedar Rapids. "My neighbor begged me to come see John Edwards so I said I would. I still don't know what I'm going to do."