Kerry chooses Edwards as his running mate

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The Independent US

John Kerry yesterday named the charismatic North Carolina senator John Edwards as his running mate for November's presidential election, injecting glamour and excitement into the Democratic ticket and setting up one of the closest and most bitterly fought contests of modern times.

John Kerry yesterday named the charismatic North Carolina senator John Edwards as his running mate for November's presidential election, injecting glamour and excitement into the Democratic ticket and setting up one of the closest and most bitterly fought contests of modern times.

Mr Kerry made the announcement at a Pittsburgh rally, less than two hours after he had informed other possible candidates for the vice-Presidency of his choice. Last night Mr Edwards and his family were having a private dinner with the Kerrys. Today they head for the industrial city of Cleveland in Ohio - a key swing state - to make their first appearance together for the launch of their joint campaign.

Mr Edwards, Mr Kerry said of the man who gave him his toughest battle in the primaries, "had shown guts and determination and political skills in his own race for the presidency".

In a statement, Mr Edwards professed himself "humbled" by the offer, "and thrilled to accept it." Democrats were even more enthusiastic last night, talking openly of the "dream ticket" to regain the Presidency which the party believes was stolen from them in 2000, when Al Gore defeated George W Bush in the popular vote, but lost when the Supreme Court halted all recounts in Florida.

The choice seems certain to give a big boost to the Massachusetts senator, who is running neck-and-neck in the polls with President Bush. It provides a perfect kick-off to three weeks in which Mr Kerry will command the headlines, culminating in the 26 July nominating convention in Boston.

All along Mr Edwards, a dazzling stump performer with broad appeal, was favourite for the job. Indeed, during the primary season, in which he won only South Carolina, the state of his birth, he was constantly asked whether his true goal was not the presidential, but the vice-presidential nomination.

But the actual selection process was a triumph of secrecy. Though Dick Gephardt, the former Democratic House leader, and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, were believed to be on the final Kerry short-list, the names of all those under consideration were never leaked.

So little did Mr Kerry reveal that the New York Post yesterday actually ran an "exclusive" front-page story, under the banner "KERRY'S CHOICE," saying that "Dem picks Gephardt as VP candidate." It was a journalistic gaffe to match the legendary "Dewey Defeats Truman" 1948 headline in the Chicago Tribune.

For political professionals, the choice of Mr Edwards sets up a mouthwatering confrontation in this autumn's vice-Presidential debate, between the silver-tongued southerner, a former trial lawyer who has been a Senator only since 1998, and the dour but vastly experienced Dick Cheney.

Mr Cheney is celebrated for his bleak world view, his business links, his penchant for secrecy, and his influence on the President. Mr Edward's political trademarks, by contrast, are openness and optimism. Poll after poll showed that voters appreciated his message.

Yesterday, the battle had already begun. At the White House Mr Bush gave an obligatorily polite reaction, saying he welcomed Mr Edwards to the Democratic ticket, "I look forward to a good, spirited contest." Behind the scenes, the Republican political attack machine swept into action.

A 28-page memo released by the Republican National Committee set the tone: "John Kerry was against John Edwards before he was for him," it said, referring to criticism by the Massachusetts senator of his opponent during the primaries. It said Mr Edwards was a "disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal," and a "friend to personal injury trial lawyers."

At the same time, the Bush-Cheney campaign released a new advertisement, showing the Arizona Senator John McCain praising Mr Bush in an unsubtle attempt to remind voters that Mr Kerry had tried to persuade his old friend Mr McCain, one of the most popular Republican politicians, to switch sides and create a ticket with irresistible cross-party appeal. Mr Edwards, the message ran, was only the second choice.

Democratic strategists believe that Mr Edwards will be the perfect complement to Mr Kerry. Unlike the latter, a four-term senator, he cannot be branded a "Washington insider". Where Mr Kerry is ponderous and sometimes boring, the North Carolina senator is a rousing speaker who can bring a crowd to its feet.

Historically, vice-Presidents have - with very few exceptions - had little influence on the outcome of an election. Democrats however believe that Mr Edwards, with his proven appeal to independents, can make a difference in the 15 or so "battleground" states, many of them in the mid-West.

THE PITFALLS OF PICKING A VEEP

A VICE-PRESIDENTIAL candidate shouldbalance the strengths and skills of the person running for president.

If the presidential candidate is considered inexperienced in some areas (George Bush) then the running mate (Dick Cheney) should offer experience and solidity. If the candidate is thought to have an excess of gravitas (John Kerry) then the running mate (John Edwards) should have youth and charisma.

But things do not always go to plan. In 1988, George Bush Snr selected Dan Quayle, below, to be his vice-president.

Mr Bush's choice ensured a running mate and vice-president that delivered such pearls as: "Votes are like trees, if you are trying to build a forest. If you have more trees than you have forests, then at that point the pollsters will probably say you will win."

One of the highlights of that campaign was a televised debate between Mr Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen, a Texan senator who was the running mate of the Democratic challenger, Michael Dukakis. Mr Quayle made an apparently innocent remark about John F Kennedy. Mr Bentsen replied: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

Four years earlier Walter Mondale, who had been vice-president to Jimmy Carter, selected Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro to be his running mate to take on Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr. Ms Ferraro is the only woman to have been on the ticket for one of the two major parties.

In 2000, Al Gore picked Joseph Lieberman to be his running mate. Had they won, Mr Lieberman would have been the first Jewish vice-president.

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