John Edwards was John Kerry’s running mate as vice-presidential candidate for the Democrats in the 2004 National Election. John Edwards was considered to have intellect, a charm and warmth when with the public and a classic example of a person who has done well regardless of personal circumstances.
Edwards has been in politics barely six years and he has yet to serve a full term as a senator. His rise to his current position has been spectacular by any standards.
Edwards and Kerry will be the first all-senator combination for an election (Kerry for Massachusetts and Edwards for North Carolina) since the 1960 election.
Edwards won only one state in the Democrats primaries (North Carolina) but he emerged as an exciting campaigner – hence why Kerry has taken him on board. Edwards has also been a prolific fundraiser, which will be vital between August and the election on November 2nd.
“People” magazine once named Edwards ‘America’s sexiest politician’.
While his political rise has been extremely fast, his life has been marred by tragedy when his 16-year old son was killed in a car crash – a car that Edwards had bought him for his birthday. It was his son, Wade, who had told his father to go into politics, and after Wade’s death, Edwards did just this by running for the US Senate. In 1998, he narrowly defeated the incumbent Senator, Lauch Faircloth, to enter the Senate. However, it should be noted that defeating an incumbent office holder in US politics is difficult in the extreme – so what Edwards achieved was remarkable for a first time effort.
Edwards became a ‘star’ performer in Capitol Hill and Al Gore made him a potential running mate for him in the 2000 campaign – after just 2 years in politics. However, this position went to Joe Lieberman instead.
In September 2003, Edwards announced his intention to run for the Democrats nomination for the 2004 election. Between September 2003 and January 2004, he did very little of importance but in January he criss-crossed the state of Iowa for the state’s caucus (New Hampshire has the first primary but Iowa has the first caucus which is held before New Hampshire’s primary). Most expected Howard Dean to win (he had achieved most of the media attention, even from the UK’s media) but John Kerry came first and Edwards second. It was to set the trend for the whole Democrat primary campaign. It is said that the recipe for Edward’s success was his great ability to talk to the public and get his ideas across – something that Kerry has found difficult.
Why is Edwards seen as part of a ‘dream ticket’?
- He has a very good ability to address the public and put over his ideas. Kerry is seen as being less good at this.
- He is good on television – an important part of selling yourself to swing voters. Some of Kerry’s television appearances have been poor.
- He can bring a great deal of money to the Democrats campaign. Kerry also has access to funds but with Bush having in August $50 million more than both, any money is welcomed, especially as once the Democrats announced their candidates in the Boston convention, the law forbids them from raising money for the campaign as they get federal money for this. (This does not mean that others cannot raise money for them and the laws surrounding raising campaign funds are so full of holes that both men having access to money can’t do them any harm.)
- He is the classic poor boy made good; his father worked in a textile mill while Kerry comes from a more privileged background.
- One is from the south while the other is from the north.
- The Democrat image-makers should have a field day – Kerry fought in Vietnam while Edwards has experienced family tragedy.
- Edwards was a popular choice amongst the Democrats. 70% stated that they wanted him selected as the running mate.
Does he have any Achilles heel?
- His lack of political experience will be picked up by the Republicans.
- His lack of knowledge in foreign affairs will be tested when he goes head-to-head with Dick Cheney in public debates.
- He made his $30 million fortune as a civil rights lawyer – a career well liked by those of a liberal leaning but not by the establishment.
During the Democrats primaries, Edwards said some choice things about Kerry; remarks that the Republicans are sure to latch onto.