Finally a No. 2, with swing state appeal
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards's presence on the Democratic ticket may put the Tarheel State in play, along with a handful of other Southern and border states. But even more important, it gives Sen. John Kerry a powerful new voice in a number of key Midwestern battleground states - and among the small-town, middle-class voters there who are likely to decide the election.
Senator Kerry's selection of his former rival, announced by the Massachusetts senator at a rally in Pittsburgh Tuesday, stands as one of the least surprising vice presidential picks in recent campaign history. Although the process was a closely guarded secret, Mr. Edwards was seen by many as the leading candidate throughout: He campaigned hard for the No. 2 spot, making numerous appearances - and raising piles of cash - on Kerry's behalf.
Polls showed Edwards was the most popular choice among Democratic voters, and he was the only candidate who boosted Kerry's ratings when paired against President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Indeed, the only factors working against Edwards were rumors of lingering tensions with Kerry in the wake of their primary battle - and the one-term senator's relative lack of experience in foreign affairs, a particular concern in an election cycle dominated by war and terrorism.
Edwards's selection indicates Kerry believes not only that his own military and foreign-policy experience will be enough to cover the ticket as a whole, but also that domestic issues such as the economy and healthcare could prove equally, if not more, important to voters.
At a time when the economy is recovering but many Americans feel less economically secure, the Kerry campaign believes Edwards's populist appeal - as the self-made son of a textile worker - could give the Democratic ticket a boost, particularly in states with struggling manufacturing bases such as Ohio, Michigan, and West Virginia. "There's no question John Edwards's personal story has particular appeal to the struggling middle class," says a senior Kerry adviser. "I think he will play well with those kinds of voters."