Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Kerry, Edwards to hit the road

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards on Wednesday morning will make their first public appearance together as the presumptive Democratic presidential ticket.

Ending weeks of speculation, Kerry tapped Edwards as his vice presidential running mate in a phone call Tuesday morning, and the North Carolinian accepted.

Edwards was a trial attorney before turning to politics.

But in an unusual move designed to maintain the element of surprise, Kerry announced his choice at a rally in downtown Pittsburgh alone, while Edwards watched the speech at his home in Washington.

"I know his skill. I know his passion. I know his strength. I know his conscience," said Kerry, a four-term U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

"He has honored the lessons of home and family that he learned in North Carolina, and he brings those values to shape a better America together with all of us."

After Kerry spoke, Vice President Dick Cheney called Edwards to congratulate him on his selection, and tell the senator that he looked forward to a spirited campaign and their October 5 debate, Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems said.

Other Republicans gave Edwards a less cordial reception, attacking the ticket as a marriage of two liberals, lambasting Edwards' background as a trial lawyer -- and tagging him as inexperienced by trotting out critical comments Kerry made about him during their heated battle for the Democratic nomination.

"I think Senator Kerry was probably more accurate earlier in the year when he said John Edwards is someone who can't even carry his own state of North Carolina," said Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. "I think he was more accurate than he is today."

The Bush campaign also tweaked its Democratic rivals over Kerry's earlier overtures to Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona to be his running mate, launching a TV ad called "First Choice" in which McCain lavishes praise on President Bush.

In response, the Democratic National Committee released an ad on the Web highlighting critical comments McCain said about Bush when they were rivals for the GOP nomination in 2000.

McCain appeared tickled by the attention, noting that both campaigns were using him.

"I'm a uniter, not a divider," he quipped to reporters. (Full story)

After spending the morning accepting congratulatory calls, Edwards, accompanied by his wife and three children, flew to Pittsburgh, where the two families had a private let's-get-acquainted evening at Teresa Heinz Kerry's 90-acre Rosemont Farm.

Kerry's new No. 2 did not speak to reporters as he was leaving his Georgetown home, nor did he make any public comments after he arrived in Pittsburgh and shook hands with supporters at the airport.

But he did issue a statement saying he was "thrilled" to accept Kerry's offer.

"I've served with John Kerry. He is a man of strength, character and courage. He has a vision for our country that will make life better for all Americans," Edwards said.

Democrats lavished praise on Kerry's decision and the new Democratic team.

Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, who had been considered a top contender for running mate, said the Democrats made for an "exciting ticket" that would appeal to "independent voters or nonvoters who have stayed away from voting."

Kerry and Edwards were scheduled to appear in public early Wednesday before leaving for a campaign event in Cleveland.

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