CONCORD, N.H. – Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards (search) on Friday denounced "war profiteers" he said are winning contracts for work in Iraq while making political contributions to the well-connected in Washington.
Edwards struck a strong populist tone during an hourlong meeting at an industrial leather factory, vowing to restore middle-class taxpayers' pride and political clout if he wins the nomination.
"It's about making Americans proud to be Americans again," the North Carolina senator told workers at Page Belting, which makes belts for industrial machinery and knife sheaths for the military.
Edwards, who won second place in the Iowa caucuses earlier this week in large part on his optimistic message, said he intended to stick to a positive message as he seeks a surprise showing in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday.
That didn't mean the Republicans or "Washington insiders" were off limits. Edwards railed against them time and again as he sought to connect with the factory workers, reminding them several times that his father had worked at a mill and his mother at a post office.
Edwards was particularly critical about companies winning contracts for Iraqi work while making political contributions. He said Halliburton (search), the company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney (search), had gotten a lot of attention for the no-bid contracts it has won in Iraq. But he said many others were benefiting from political connections.
"We ought to stop some of these war profiteers that's going on right now in Iraq," he said. "We ought to ban these companies from making political contributions while they're bidding on government contracts."
The leather factory town meeting was Edwards' only New Hampshire event of the day. He was heading to South Carolina later Friday, where he is seeking a win on Feb. 3. He was running fourth in polls in New Hampshire.
Edwards' stump speech focused on the "two Americas" that he said he sees in many areas of society: schools, health care, race, the tax system and the economy.