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Bush's Democratic Challenger Returns to US Senate

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is returning to the Senate after his unsuccessful bid to unseat President Bush in this month's election. His vice presidential running mate Senator John Edwards is retiring from the Senate, but his political future may not be over.

Although Senator Kerry did not win the White House, he says he will continue to fight for the issues he championed during his campaign.

He underscored the point upon his return to the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders just days after the election.

"We need to be unified and we have a very clear agenda, and I'm going to be fighting for that agenda with all of the energy that I have and all of the passion I brought to the campaign," he said.

Despite his unsuccessful presidential bid, Mr. Kerry is said to be energized to play a highly visible role in U.S. politics, and has not ruled out another run for the White House in 2008.

But some Democratic strategists wonder whether Mr. Kerry has what it takes to be a winning presidential candidate. These strategists say the Senator failed to connect with many voters on traditional Democratic issues, including jobs and health care.

"The campaign was never able to sustain a broad assault on Mr. Bush's failures at home on the economy and kitchen table issues," said Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, a liberal advocacy group.

Health care, education, and jobs are often called kitchen table issues because they directly impact people's lives.

In the meantime, while Mr. Kerry resumes his Senate career, his running mate, Senator Edwards, is set to retire from the Senate.

Mr. Edwards decided against running for re-election after his single six-year term ends in January.

But in his concession speech, he made clear he is not giving up on politics.

"I want to talk to the tens of millions of people who worked along side us, who believed in our cause and stood with us," he said. "You can be disappointed, but you cannot walk away. This fight has just begun."

Some Democrats expect Senator Edwards will also seek the party's nomination for president in 2008.

If he does, he may face criticism for failing to win in his own home state of North Carolina in this year's contest. Mr. Bush prevailed over Mr. Kerry by 13 percentage points in North Carolina. The state has leaned Republican in presidential elections since 1980, but it was hoped that Mr. Edwards' presence on the ticket would have helped Mr. Kerry.

In the run-up to the 2008 election, Mr. Edwards is expected to be an influential voice for the Democrats. His respectable showing in the primary campaign showed that he can be an effective speaker who can energize the party's liberal base.