NASHUA, N.H. – Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards (search) worked Sunday to close the deal with New Hampshire voters as his campaign kept an eye on the contests coming a week after the nation's leadoff primary.
Overflow crowds turned out to hear the North Carolina (search) senator's message as he sought to complete a circuit of the state in the final 48 hours before voters begin casting ballots on Tuesday.
"My campaign isn't based on the politics of cynicism," said Edwards, whose strong second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last week has generated some excitement about his campaign. "It's based on the politics of hope."
Later, Edwards told reporters he believed his message was getting through, based on the size of the crowds that have been turning out. At least 600 people packed into a gymnasium at a middle school for a midday event and nearly as many had to file into an overflow room.
"I'm closing it every way I know how," Edwards said, describing how he believes he's drawing undecided voters. "For the last three to four weeks, first in Iowa and now in New Hampshire, I've been doing every possible thing I can to close."
Many of the people in the crowds were still looking for the candidate they believe would be the best nominee in this fall's campaign against President Bush. Some said they were uncertain whether Edwards was that man.
"I like his positive spin on things. He's not doom and gloom like the president we have now," said Susan Porter, 47, a school teacher from Nashua. But she remained undecided, and was still shopping around, after hearing Edwards' presentation and the boisterous response he received.
"I'm going to see [Massachusetts Sen. John] Kerry now," she said.
Polls in New Hampshire generally have shown Edwards in fourth place, although some have him tied for third with retired Gen. Wesley Clark. Other polls have shown Edwards and Clark tied for second with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search). Kerry continues to poll at the front of the pack.
Edwards spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said the New Hampshire campaign could play out as it did last week in Iowa, where Edwards surged at the end to surpass all of his opponents, except first-place finisher Kerry.
"We're seeing the same kind of momentum and crowd surge that we saw in Iowa," she said, acknowledging that none of that was showing up in the polls. "We're doing well here. We have a ticket to Feb. 3."
As Edwards focused on New Hampshire, his staff looked toward states with upcoming presidential contests. Edwards hired the North Dakota state director who previously worked for Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, whom Edwards helped force from the campaign with his strong finish in Iowa.
Over the weekend, Edwards announced the hiring of two Gephardt staffers to head his operation in Missouri, which is the biggest Feb. 3 prize with 74 delegates to the Democratic convention.
The campaign is banking on doing well enough in New Hampshire on Tuesday to maintain the momentum going into Edwards' birthplace of South Carolina, the state he is looking to win. The campaign also is airing a TV ad in Oklahoma, another of Edwards' targets for next week.
Edwards said he would continue delivering his populist message, arguing that he can end the "two Americas" that exist today, one for the wealthy and privileged and the other for working people and the poor.
"When it's working, you don't change, you keeping doing what you're doing," he said after a town meeting in Nashua.