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Mr. Edwards enjoys strong name recognition in the first caucus state of Iowa and in the first primary state of New Hampshire. He was also born and raised in the second primary state, South Carolina, which he won in 2004, and the only state where Mr. Obama has a slight lead in the polls.

The former senator, now known as much for his $400 haircuts as for his fight against poverty, focused his first TV ads in Iowa on pushing Congress to end the Iraq war. He released an ad last week in New Hampshire that shows him giving a speech, and includes an image of his wife greeting voters. His campaign strategists said it wasn’t necessary to give his life story because he is already well-known, and instead want to tell voters his policy ideas.