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Bowles, Edwards Praise Each Other During Campaign Stop

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The race for the Senate seat held by John Edwards is expected to be a tight one. That is why the candidates are bringing in political heavy weights.

Vice President Dick Cheney was in Winston-Salem a few days ago for Richard Burr. Sunday, Edwards was in Raleigh to show support for Erskine Bowles.

Edwards, the former Democratic presidential nominee, has announced that he will not seek a second term in the Senate.

"His experience in Washington, plus his experience in the business community, have prepared him to lead," Edwards said Sunday during a fundraiser for Bowles. "He's somebody I'll be proud to have occupy my seat."

Although it was an event to drum up support for Bowles, it proved just as much a lovefest for Edwards, who has been mentioned as a possible running mate for presidential candidate John Kerry.

Bowles heaped praise on Edwards, referring to him at least three times as "the next vice president."

"This guy is unbelievable," Bowles said. "If John Kerry doesn't put him on the national ticket, he is absolutely nuts."

Edwards did not have too much to say on that topic.

"I'm going to remain silent about it," he said.

What has been loud and clear, however, is that race between Bowles and Burr is expected to be a close one. The latest WRAL poll indicates Bowles has a lead of 45 to 35 percent, with a significant 20 percent undecided.

About 200 people joined Edwards and Bowles for a fundraiser Sunday at a North Raleigh home. The goal was to raise $100,000. Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker was among the people paying between $75 and $1,000 to attend.

The Bowles camp said it has raised just more than $4 million. The Burr campaign said it has raised more than $7 million.

Bowles, a Charlotte investment banker and former White House chief of staff under President Clinton, ran for the Senate two years ago, losing to Republican Elizabeth Dole in the race to replace retiring Sen. Jesse Helms. Edwards campaigned for Bowles in that race and appeared with him Sunday in what Democrats hope was a ceremonial passing of the torch.

"He will be what he has always been, which is a powerful independent voice," Edwards said. "This is a man who stands up for what he believes in. He's a Democrat -- he's a good Democrat -- but the truth is he's going to do what he thinks is right."

Bowles beamed the moment he walked into the room with Edwards.

"This is a thrill," Bowles said as he looked around the cramped room. "This is as good as it gets. It's amazing what you can do when you bring the next vice president."

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