WASHINGTON -- Democratic White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) staked a claim Wednesday to rival Sen. John Edwards' (D-N.C.) signature issue -- poverty -- while raising the question of who could claim the legacy of Bobby Kennedy.
Obama didn't mention Edwards by name during his speech, delivered at a facility here providing a variety of programs -- cultural, social and health -- to the "underserved" in the nation's capital.
"This kind of poverty is not an issue I just discovered for the purposes of a campaign. It is the cause that led me to a life of public service almost 25 years ago,'' said Obama, a former Chicago community organizer.
At the top of Obama's speech--detailing a $6 billion plan to combat urban poverty -- Obama invoked the name of another charismatic political figure, Bobby Kennedy, to whom he has been compared.
"It's been four decades since Bobby Kennedy crouched in a shack along the Mississippi Delta and looked in the wide, listless eyes of a hungry child," Obama said.
Forty years ago, Kennedy toured some of the nation's poorest areas in order to bring attention to problems languishing to this day. Obama quoted a Kennedy line about poverty in America, when he asked rhetorically, "How can a country like this allow it?"
Obama's speech came on the day Edwards was wrapping up an eight-state, 11-city tour to some of the country's poorest areas in order to call attention to the 37 million people in the U.S. living in poverty. Edwards ended his trip in the same place Kennedy concluded his 1968 tour, Prestonsburg, Ky.
Speaking at the Floyd County courthouse, Edwards said, AP reported, "I want you to join us to end the work Bobby Kennedy started."
Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz, in a statement issued in reaction to Obama, said, "This is another example of Edwards leading on the issues and other candidates following. John Edwards' leadership has taken this race to places nobody else is going -- from areas of the country that have essentially been forgotten, to a discussion on rural health care and how to reward work over wealth. Without John Edwards shining a desperately needed spotlight on this issue, it would be a very different race."
(For complete text of Obama's speech detailing his urban agenda see blog entry below.....)