CLAREMONT, Calif. – Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards (search), who is waging a long-shot bid to win California, showcased a series of proposals on Wednesday that he said would lift 10 million people out of poverty.
Among the proposals, all previously announced, are a $1.50-per-hour increase in the $5.75 minimum wage, expanded child and earned-income tax credits, special tax breaks for the married poor, tax breaks for companies that locate in run-down areas, health care for all children and college tuition breaks for students willing to work 10 hours a week.
"I want the phrase 'working poor' to never be spoken by another American," Edwards, a senator from North Carolina, said in a speech at Pomona College.
He said he decided to lump the proposals together into one because, "It's something I talk about deeply. I talk about it virtually every time I speak. It was important for me to make it a central thesis of my speech."
Edwards arrived in California the day after fellow Sen. John Kerry (search) of Massachusetts racked up more wins in Democratic nominating contests in Idaho, Utah and Hawaii. Edwards did not expect to do well in any of those states Tuesday, and said the results produced "no surprises.
The latest polls in California put Kerry ahead of Edwards by a more than 2-to-1 margin.
Despite the long odds against him here and in most of the other nine states with contests next Tuesday, Edwards said he hoped for the same late-developing "powerful response and surge" that led to his strong second-place finish last week in Wisconsin's presidential primary.
Of the 10 states voting Tuesday, Edwards is most competitive in Georgia, one of several places where he has been focusing his underdog campaign. Kerry held an 8-percentage point advantage in the latest Georgia survey, and hopes to force an end to Edwards' campaign on that day.
Edwards is hoping for wins in Georgia and Minnesota. Advisers argue that he is gaining ground on Kerry, but wonder whether he could erase Kerry's advantage by Tuesday.
Speaking with reporters, Edwards criticized Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (search) for telling Congress on Wednesday that cutting Social Security benefits for future recipients would be better for the U.S. economy in the long run than tax increases as a way to reduce towering budget deficits.
"I do believe that we should do something about deficits," Edwards said. "But the answer is not to cut Social Security benefits." He suggested rolling back Bush's tax cuts and spending restraint as a better solution.
On other subjects, Edwards:
— Reiterated his opposition to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages, as President Bush has proposed. Edwards said that while he opposes such unions, states should be left to decide the issue without federal interference.
— Said he was continuing to talk to former supporters of Howard Dean, but had not spoken to the former Vermont governor himself over the past day. Edwards has said he has spoken with Dean twice since Dean quit the race. Edwards said he hopes to get the bulk of Dean's supporters and that he is actively courting them. In his speech, he called Dean "my friend" and "a powerful voice for change."