Local News

Edwards Exits Presidential Race, Enters VP Picture

Posted March 4, 2004 7:14 a.m. EST

— John Edwards, who officially withdrew from the presidential race Wednesday, is going to be in the mix as a possible candidate for vice president until Democratic presidential frontrunner John Kerry makes his choice.

Edwards' name is among seven being mentioned as VP candidates. The others are Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, former presidential candidate and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former presidential candidates Rep. Dick Gephardt and Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

History shows that Edwards, Clark, even Gephardt could be longshots for the VP spot. It has been a rare occasion over the past 70 years that two men who ran against each other for president ended up running together for president and vice president.

The last time it happened was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan chose George Bush as his running mate.

During the 2000 presidential race, Al Gore considered Edwards as a running mate but eventually went with Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Wednesday night, the two prominent questions were:

  • Will Kerry choose Edwards?
  • Would Edwards accept?
  • While on the campaign trail prior to Wednesday, Edwards repeatedly said he had no interest in being vice president. When a reporter told him "some people say you are running for vice president," Edwards quickly replied: "I would say they are dead wrong."

    But now that he is out of the presidential race, will Edwards sing a different tune?

    "I think Edwards is a leading contender for the nominee of vice president," local Democratic consultant Brad Crone said Wednesday.

    "It's a matter of whether he's willing to accept second fiddle. He says publicly he's not. But for the good of the party, he might reconsider."

    As Kerry's staff reviewed potential VP candidates. Kerry's senior advisers said Kerry grew frustrated with Edwards' claim that he was the only candidate who could beat incumbent president George W. Bush in the South -- but not frustrated enough to preclude Edwards' consideration for a vice-presidential nomination.

    "Edwards brings a lot of energy to the ticket," Crone said.

    Until recently, Edwards had been depicting Kerry as a Washington insider unable to bring about needed change. But he praised his Senate colleague unstintingly during a speech Wednesday at Broughton High School. He said the Massachusetts senator had battled for "more jobs, better health care, cleaner air, cleaner water, a safer world" and more.

    "They are the causes of our party," Edwards said. "They are the causes of America, and they are the reason we will prevail," Edwards said.

    North Carolina State University political science professor Andy Taylor said choosing Edwards makes a lot of sense, noting that Edwards is young and a Southerner.

    Taylor believes Kerry's pick depends on campaign strategy. He said Kerry could go after the electoral votes and pick a VP candidate from a swing state.

    "The other strategy would be saying: 'Let's get someone on the ticket who has broad appeal, who can raise the Democratic vote across the board, or at least regionally, or at least in a number of states rather than just one," Taylor said.

    That strategy could find Edwards on the ticket. But if not, Democratic leaders said Edwards is a rising star in the party, and they expect him to be back.

    Political strategists have said that if Edwards is not the vice-president nominee, he could become attorney general if Kerry becomes president.

    Edwards also could look for a high-profile position in a non-profit such as the National Trial Lawyers Association.

    "I hope he's the second guy on the ticket," said Erskine Bowles, who is running for Edwards' seat in the U.S. Senate. "It would be fabulous for North Carolina.