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Edwards Hopes To Be Front-Runner in Crowded Democratic Presidential Race

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. John Edwards, a multimillionaire trial lawyer from the South and relative newcomer to Washington, is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, saying he wants to be "a champion for regular people."

Edwards said he will offer a dramatic alternative to President Bush's White House as somebody who comes from a humble background, whose father worked in a North Carolina textile mill and who understands the needs of ordinary people.

"The president has a different kind of administration that is run to a large extent by insiders and for insiders," Edwards said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We need to give the American people that choice."

Edwards, in his first term as a Senator from North Carolina, said he doesn't think his relatively short time in Washington will be a disadvantage. On the contrary, he said it could actually prove beneficial because he feels closer to the needs of ordinary citizens like those in his home state.

"I'm more than happy to be judged on the basis of my ideas," said Edwards. "When people are considering leadership in a time like this, the things that you look for are a clear view of America's role in the world, strength of conviction, good judgment and a willingness to ask hard questions.

"If the American people want a lifelong politician in the White House, that's not me."

Edwards said he believes Americans "are waiting for, are hungry for" someone with a vision for the country that differs from that of the Bush administration.

"I would say I have exactly the kind of experience we need in the White House," he said, once again describing himself as someone who's close to regular people.

Other Democrats seeking the Presidential nomination are

Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt,

Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman,

Howard Dean of Vermont

and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

State polls have suggested the public is lukewarm about Edwards' presidential ambitions.

Although Edwards said it was important for the Democratic presidential field to have a Southern voice, he quickly added "the most important thing is for the campaign to focus on what's good for regular people."

His background as a trial lawyer should help his effort, not hurt it, Edwards said.

Asked why voters should support him, Edwards told NBC, "Because I will be a champion for regular people in the White House every day."

Edwards, who made millions as a trial lawyer, has spent months making the rounds at Democratic functions in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere.

The son of a textile mill employee, Edwards was born in South Carolina and spent his teenage years in Robbins, N.C. He became a successful lawyer in Raleigh, winning personal injury cases against big companies and amassing a fortune of $14 million.

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