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Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama got the most attention after this week’s Democratic debate. But John Edwards had the most pointed message. And it’s why he remains a big threat to the Big Two.

The first two questions he got, almost the first words out of Edwards’ mouth were “big insurance companies, big pharmaceutical companies and big oil companies.”

And his language was bellicose. He said those big companies weren’t going to give up their power willingly. “We” are going to have to take it from them.

Here’s what’s going on: One of the big changes among Democrats since Bill Clinton left office is a growing hostility to big business.

Alone among the Democratic candidates, Edwards sees that populist strain. And he has it fixed firmly in his strategic sights.

It’s not just a function of today’s politics. Edwards targeted some of the same villains when he ran for Senate in 1998.

Now, it’s the flip side of his poverty crusade: It’s not just that some Americans are left out, it’s that they’re victimized by greedy corporations.

Throughout American history, public opinion has fluctuated between love and hate for big business. Think Teddy Roosevelt and FDR.

Business leaders, by and large, became heroes in the ’80s and ’90s. But now a reaction is settling in. And Edwards is the only candidate surfing that wave.

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