07/07/04 — Edwards: Kerry picked an effective campaigner to join his team

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Edwards: Kerry picked an effective campaigner to join his team

Sen. John Kerry, in the process of announcing that Sen. John Edwards was his choice for vice presidential candidate, accurately described some of Edwards’ qualities. Kerry said the North Carolinian “has shown guts and determination and political skills in his own race for the presidency ...”

He has shown them in other areas of his life, too. While Edwards didn’t exactly grow up in poverty — middle class is a better description of his family — it took extraordinary determination and skill for him to get where he is. Without them he could not have gone to law school, made millions as a trial lawyer, won a seat in the U.S. Senate the first time he ever showed an interest in politics, or, after just five years in public life, made a credible attempt to be nominated for president.

That determination and skill, not to mention his unassuming, everyday manner and his brilliance, are what many North Carolinians admire about him. These characteristics are acknowledged even by his detractors.

But determination, and ambition, may not be a good thing in excess. Some of Edwards’ constituents felt that he demonstrated an excess during his term in the Senate. To them, he appeared to be using his Senate seat to advance his own political prospects rather than giving North Carolina full-time representation, as he was elected and paid to do.

Still, most of us will be proud to have a fellow Tar Heel on a national ticket, something we have never had. North Carolina-born Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson became president in the 1800s, but by the time they ran they all lived in Tennessee. William Rufus King, who was born in Sampson County, ran successfully for vice president in 1852 when Franklin Pierce was elected president, but by then King lived in Alabama.

It will be interesting to see whether North Carolinians’ favorite-son attitude toward Edwards translates into votes for the Democratic ticket. The 15 electoral votes that the Kerry ticket would get from North Carolina would not be insignificant. In the last few presidential elections, those votes have gone to Republicans.

If Kerry and Edwards carried South Carolina, where Edwards was born, that would put another eight electoral votes in their column.

Conventional wisdom is that the prospect of picking up Southern electoral votes was one consideration in Kerry’s choice of Edwards. But, as Kerry noted, Edwards offers more. He has proven himself a skillful campaigner, and his skills would be effective in other regions as well as the South. Indeed, some believe Edwards would attract more votes outside of North Carolina than in it.

Whether he increases Kerry’s votes on election day will depend in part on whether he can convince the people that he is ready to ascend to the presidency in an emergency. That is the issue, above all others, that the voters must consider.

Published in Editorials on July 7, 2004 12:45 PM