The former presidential candidate and his wife open up about the Dem frontrunners

By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
May 05, 2008 05:10 PM
Sonia Moskowitz/Globe

Elizabeth Edwards likes Hillary Clinton’s plan for universal health insurance. Husband John Edwards doesn’t much care for Clinton’s “old politics.”

So goes the his-and-her debate in the Edwards household (their kitchen, to be specific), as they spoke exclusively to PEOPLE Monday on the eve of primary voting in their homestate of North Carolina – the latest must-win state in this year’s protracted Democratic presidental nomination fight between Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.

In their first joint interview since John, the Democratic former senator and 2004 vice presidential nominee, dropped out of the race in January, the couple named what they liked and disliked about each of the remaining Democrats – and Mrs. Edwards didn’t hesitate: “I like Hillary’s health care plan.”

What doesn’t she like about the senator from New York and former first lady? “The lobbyist money,” she adds.

On Obama, she says: “The fact that he has motivated so many young people to be involved, I think is fantastic.”

But, she adds: “I don’t like his health care plan or his advertising on health care, which I think is misleading.”

John Edwards Speaks Out

Her husband, who said he got yet another phone call from Obama as recently as last week (both Clinton and Obama have heavily courted the Edwardses’ endorsement, and Mrs. Edwards said she had an email from one of the campaigns that very morning), also weighed in on the pros and cons.

On Clinton: “I like something different about Hillary. I think her tenacity shows a real strength that’s inside her.”

What doesn’t he like about Clinton? “Um, still a lot of the old politics,” John Edwards said.

As for Obama, he says: “Sometimes I want to see more substance under the rhetoric.”

But he cited two things he likes about the charismatic young senator from Illinois: “One is, I think he really does want to bring about serious change and a different way of doing things. And secondly, I think it’s a great symbolic thing to have an African-American who could be president.”

Differing Opinions?

At that, Mrs. Edwards rolled her eyes and, gripping the arms of her kitchen chair with some exaggeration, seemed about to lunge from her seat. “What about the great symbolic thing about a woman …”

“It’s important. It’s important,” her husband said. “I know it.”

Bottom line: the couple said they will not endorse either remaining candidate, saving their political capital for their own causes – his, fighting poverty; hers, fighting for universal health care.

For more from the Edwardses’ exclusive interview with PEOPLE, pick up the next issue, on newsstands Friday