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Running Mate: John Edwards - 2004-07-06


Senator John Edwards, whom presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry chose as his running mate, is a successful trial lawyer who was seen as a rising political star when he was first elected to the Senate six years ago.

Senator Edwards is seen as a charismatic candidate and an energetic campaigner, although he never found the momentum to overtake Senator Kerry during the primary campaign.

He won just a single state during the primary, his native South Carolina, and abandoned his presidential bid in March.

But since then, he has campaigned aggressively for Mr. Kerry. "The man who is going to lead us out of the wilderness back to hope, back to a belief that in our America everything in America is possible, and build one America that can work for everybody. Ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States, Senator John Kerry!" he announced once.

A key theme for Mr. Edwards has been his criticism of President Bush for creating what he calls "two Americas" - one for the rich and one for everybody else.

The 51-year-old senator has portrayed himself as a champion of ordinary Americans since his days as a trial lawyer. During his nearly two-decade career as a civil litigator, he represented people in claims against large corporations and hospitals, and earned a personal fortune in the process.

His experience helped him become a skillful speaker and debater, qualities that will be invaluable when he faces Vice President Dick Cheney for a debate in October.

Mr. Edwards' critics say he lacks political experience, noting his one term in the Senate, and has no foreign policy credentials.

Seeking to tamp down the criticism, Mr. Kerry emphasized Mr. Edwards' service on the Senate Intelligence Committee during the announcement of his running mate.

"As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and also a leader fighting bioterrorism and understanding the threats we face, he shares my unshakable commitment to having a military that is second to nobody in the world, but also to restoring old and rebuilding new alliances that make America stronger," said Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards agree on most major policy issues. They both supported the decision to go to war with Iraq, and both voted against the $87 billion spending package for Iraq and Afghanistan.

They both made President Bush's credibility an issue when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, a key reason the United States went to war.

Senator Edwards offered these comments after outgoing Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet acknowledged that faulty intelligence was to blame.

"I have some very serious questions about what I think are one of the most important issues there could be, the credibility of the president of the United States," he said. "When the president speaks, he speaks on behalf of the American people. George Tenet has accepted his responsibility, and that is good. But at the end of the day, when he speaks, has to take responsibility for what he says. The responsibility is not the CIA's, it is not anyone else's, it is the president's responsibility."

There have been issues where Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kerry disagreed, including trade.

Senator Kerry voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement. But Senator Edwards, who was elected to the Senate after the pact was approved, campaigned against the accord, saying it resulted in lost jobs.

On domestic issues, Mr. Kerry is opposed to the death penalty, while Mr. Edwards supports it. Mr. Kerry voted against the ban on late term abortions approved by Congress, but Mr. Edwards did not vote.

Mr. Edwards was elected to the Senate in 1998, beating incumbent Republican Senator Lauch Faircloth.

He is the son of a textile mill worker. He announced his presidential bid from a factory where his father had worked, but which had since closed. He was the first person in his family to attend college.

Senator Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, have three children. A fourth child, son Wade, died in a traffic accident at the age of 16 in 1996.

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