RALEIGH, N.C. – John Edwards said Sunday that he was the Democrat with the best chance of recapturing the White House, while downplaying the loss of a much sought after Iowa newspaper endorsement.

Taking a break from an eight-day Iowa bus trip, Edwards appeared on national talk shows on CBS, ABC and CNN where he touted recent national poll showing that he was the only Democrat who would defeat all the potential Republican rivals in the fall.

“The empirical data points out, I’m the Democrat who beats every single Republican in national testing,” Edwards said on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “I’m the strongest candidate in the general election.”

But Edwards failed to win the coveted endorsement of the Des Moines Register, the leading newspaper in Iowa where the Jan. 3 caucuses will be held to start the presidential voting. Edwards won the Des Moines paper’s endorsement in 2004, which some saw as critical to his strong second place finish to John Kerry. But this time, the newspaper endorsed New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

“Edwards was our pick for the 2004 nomination,” the newspaper said. “But this is a different race, with different candidates. We too seldom saw the “positive, optimistic’ campaign we found appealing in 2004. His harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change.”

Edwards said he and the Des Moines editorial board had a fundamental difference on whether there was “too much corporate influence” in Washington.

“It remains to be seen how important it turns out to be for Sen. Clinton,” Edwards said on ABC.

“What we ultimately have to do is have a president of the United States – a Teddy Roosevelt – whose tough, who has what it takes to engage in this fight to galvanize the American people in this cause.”

On the same program, Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said Edwards was right when he said middle class income growth had stagnated and there is growing inequality.

But Greenspan added: “His remedies will make it worse, not better.”

Edwards’ ability to battle Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama on even terms in Iowa is drawing increasing attention. Edwards is on the cover of the Newsweek edition to be released Monday with the headline “The Sleeper.”

“Edwards is really good,” former President Bill Clinton said in an interview Friday with PBS talk show host Charlie Rose. “You are underestimating his chances. Edwards might win in Iowa.”

Edwards declined to discuss Sunday that he would land a major endorsement Monday of either Iowa Gov. Chet Culver or Culver’s wife.

(c) 2007, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).

Visit The News & Observer online at http://www.newsobserver.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-12-16-07 1734EST

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