Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Edwards is Kerry's running mate

PICK OF THE LITTER US Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry picked his closest former rival as his running mate for the vice presidency

AP , Washington

A picture from February shows US Democratic presidential hopeful Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, left, and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina prior to a debate in Los Angeles, California. Kerry announced the choice of Edwards as his vice presidential running mate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, yesterday. Edwards was not at the announcement.

PHOTO: EPA

US Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry selected former rival John Edwards to be his running mate, calling him a man "who has shown guts and determination and political skills in his own race for the presidency of the United States."

With his announcement, a huge crowd of supporters burst into applause, waving handmade signs that mixed with professionally printed "Kerry-Edwards" signs kept under wraps until the last minute.

"I trust that met with your approval," Kerry said in a rally in Pittsburgh, as a banner unfurled behind him that read, "Kerry-Edwards. A stronger America."

By selecting Edwards, Kerry went with the smooth-talking Southern populist over more seasoned politicians in hopes of injecting vigor and small-town appeal to the Democratic presidential ticket. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, calculated that he didn't need to add foreign policy heft to the ticket. Called aloof by his critics, reserved by his supporters, Kerry hopes Edwards adds blue-collar pizzaz to the Democratic team.

Representative Dick Gephardt of Missouri, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and Senator Bob Graham of Florida emerged as Edwards' toughest rivals in a search that began four months ago with a list of about 25 candidate and a mandate to find a political soul mate who would be "ready at any minute" to assume the presidency.

Bush's re-election campaign wasted no time criticizing the choice. The president's political team planned to air a television ad featuring former Republican rival John McCain and titled "First Choice," an effort to paint Democrat John Kerry's running mate as his second choice.

Aides said Kerry steadily warmed to Edwards, first in the primary campaign, where he stood against Kerry until the end without going negative. After pulling out of the race, Edwards campaigned aggressively on Kerry's behalf and urged his contributors, mostly trial lawyers, to donate to his former rival's campaign.

Obsessed with secrecy, Kerry kept his decision to himself until the last possible minute, giving Edwards no time to get to Pittsburgh in time. The newly minted ticket will meet up late Tuesday in Pittsburgh, where the candidates and their families will have dinner together at Kerry's estate. They fly to Ohio, a major battleground state, on Wednesday to their first joint appearance.

They will be nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, which begins July 26.

Edwards was the last major candidate standing against Kerry in the Democratic presidential race. He emerged as a favorite second choice of Democratic voters, thanks to his youthful good looks, a self-assured manner and an upbeat, optimistic style.

Some Democrats were concerned that Edwards, whose only political credential was a single term in the Senate, lacked the experience in international affairs, particularly in wartime, to be a credible candidate to assume the presidency in the case of death, resignation or removal.

Edwards, 51, was born in Seneca, South Carolina, and grew up in Robbins, North Carolina. His father was a mill worker, and he announced his presidential campaign from the factory, then closed, where his father had worked and where he had swept floors to earn money for college. He earned a bachelor's degree from North Carolina State University in 1974 and a law degree from the University of North Carolina in 1977.

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