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Yes or No? Edwards Has No Comment on Veep Rumors

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ROCKY MOUNT — With buzz building about vice-presidential possibilities,U.S. Senator John Edwards(D-N.C.) had flood recovery and baseball on his mind Thursday during a tour of eastern North Carolina.

Edwards hosted a town meeting in Greenville and toured flood-damaged areas of Pitt County before speaking at a Rocky Mount Little League baseball tournament.Flood recovery effortswas on everyone's mind, but so was the speculation about the senator's political future.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Edwards was on Vice President Al Gore's shortlist for possible running mates.

Reporters followed Edwards throughout the day, continuing to squeeze the senator for some comment about the rumors.

"That's a subject that I just don't talk about" and "I wish I could be more helpful, but it's a subject I just don't talk about" were popular responses.

Even speaking at a crowd of Democratic boosters in Greenville, Edwards could not escape the question.

"What are you going to say when Vice President Gore asks you if you would take the role of Vice President?" one man asked.

"I'm going to say, 'Next question,'" Edwards laughed.

The senator was surrounded with reporters and photographers when he boarded a school bus for a quick look at flood-ravaged areas.

Political buzz aside, Greenville Mayor Nancy Jenkins is convinced the trip was legitimate. It was not Edwards' first visit to the area, and Jenkins believes his Down East tour would have happened with or without the vice-presidential rumors.

"He doesn't impress me as a person who is more politician than he is a statesman," she says.

In his hometown of Robbins, North Carolina, people say Edwards is a rising star in the Democratic party.

"I think anyone who knows him is not really surprised because we all knew he had the potential anyways," says Donnie Baxter, a friend of Edwards. "Personally, I expect him to go a long way. I think the sky's the limit for him."

Other North Carolinians had been rumored earlier this year as potential running mates for both parties. The senator says that should be a point of pride for the state's residents.

"I think it's a real compliment to the state of North Carolina," he says. "I think it just shows how important our state is in the nation."

Edwards should get Gore's final answer sometime next Tuesday, when the vice president plans to announce his choice.

Edwards has been called a rising star in the Democratic Party. He is the 51st North Carolinian to serve in theU.S. Senate.

Elected in 1998, the freshman senator serves on three committees:Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs,Governmental AffairsandSmall Business.

Less than one month into his term, Edwards was one of two senators to oversee Monica Lewinsky's deposition.


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