John Edwards Blows in to the Rusty Pelican

A populist in Miami?

Sure enough, as I was waiting for a vodka tonic at the crowded cash bar, John Edwards somehow materialized and took the stage to cheering. He had blown into town for, among other things, a fundraiser at the Rusty Pelican, with its wide-open views of the Magic City’s skyline.

A hundred or so people crowded around, but the second floor events room was far from packed. Twenty-somethings in red, white, and blue donkey ties and thirty-somethings wielding cellphone cameras were getting giddy.

In all his blue-eyed, perfect-hair glory, Edwards took the mike and launched into a list of causes: the war in Iraq, universal healthcare, genocide in Darfur, AIDS in Africa, primary school education, carbon emission caps, New Orleans. “Think of the good that America can do.”

Telling personal stories in his North Carolina drawl and calling for moral justice, Edwards was almost a vision of a folksy, grassroots leader. “The greatest movements in American history didn’t start in the oval office. They started out here.” He sounded tired though, his speech somewhat rushed. The crowd clapped like a studio audience, seemingly on cue.

Andrew Weeraratne stood against a wall taking it in. A onetime financial adviser to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the 56-year-old had come to hear Edwards’s message. “In order to change the world, we need a philosopher king,” he said after Edwards’s brief speech.

Looking toward the scrum following Edwards across the floor, Weeraratne whipped out a business card and flyer advertising his book, Uncommon Commonsense Steps to Super Wealth. “I want to dedicate my book to him, but I don’t think I’ll get to meet him.”

What advice does the financial advisor have for Edwards? Better organization and outreach would help, Weeraratne said. “The Republicans send me a letter every month.” --Rob Jordan

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