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Edwards' National Political Impact Felt Locally As Well

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RALEIGH, N.C. — John Edwards spent Thursday campaigning in New Hampshire. One of his stops: Dartmouth College.

The senator spoke to several hundred students and people who live near campus. Many of them had to listen to loudspeakers in another room because it was so crowded.

In recent weeks, Edwards has become a surprising presidential contender. Consider if he somehow makes the Democratic ticket.

The senator could change the nation's political landscape. He also could impact state and local races.

When Edwards shot up the presidential ranks in the Iowa caucuses, the nation took notice -- and no place more so than North Carolina, where the politicians and planners are watching closely.

The prospect of Edwards on the Democratic presidential ticket could be a big help for state Democrats.

"Having a North Carolinian on the top of the national ticket would do more to energize and turn out voters," said Scott Falmlen, of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

As for Republicans, gubernatorial candidate Bill Cobey said Edwards will not effect his campaign strategy. But, "I'll be frank with you," Cobey said. "I'd rather he not be the nominee since he's from North Carolina."

Campaigning for Edwards in Iowa last week, Gov. Mike Easley made no secret of the impact.

"I'm asking you to support John Edwards," Easley told a throng of supporters, "not just for my parochial and personal interests, because I'm running this time, and I want to run with somebody I can run with, not run from."

Republican strategist Marc Rotterman said the Edwards factor could help turn out more votes for Democrats like Senate hopeful Erskine Bowles. But, no matter the Democratic ticket, the incumbent typically has the longest and strongest coattails.

"George Bush is still the 800-pound gorilla in the race," Rotterman said.

Remember North Carolina is not always big on coattails. Easley won election in 2000, despite a big win here by President Bush.