NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 7/7/2004 8:07:51 PM ET 2004-07-08T00:07:51

An upbeat John Kerry campaigned for the first time Wednesday with his running mate, John Edwards, and boasted that the Democratic presidential ticket had “better vision, better ideas” than its Republican counterpart. He also joked, “We’ve got better hair.”

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The new Democratic duo received an early boost from an NBC News poll, which suggested that the Kerry-Edwards team could beat the Republican pairing of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Campaigning a day after Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, chose Edwards, his North Carolina colleague, as his vice presidential candidate, the two offered glowing appraisals of one other at a downtown plaza in Ohio, a critical battleground state.

Introducing Edwards in Cleveland, the first city to get electricity, Kerry welcomed “a different kind of electricity called John Edwards.” He called his running mate a man with “passion, conviction and strength.”

“He represents the best of the hope of our country, the best of opportunity,” Kerry said.

‘Better vision, better ideas ... [and] better hair’
Kerry also poked fun at himself, as well as his running mate, for something the two often are teased about.

KERRY EDWARDS
Gerald Herbert  /  AP
Sen. John Kerry, left, and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards, share a laugh during a rally Wednesday in Cleveland.

“We’ve got better vision, better ideas, real plans. We’ve got a better sense of what’s happening to America — and we’ve got better hair,” Kerry said, laughing.

In turn, Edwards praised Kerry for showing “strength and courage and determination” during the Democratic primary. “And the truth is, it’s the same strength, courage and leadership that he showed his whole life,” he said.

Kerry and Edwards sought to dispel any notion of ill will from the primary campaign by embracing and laughing together like old friends. The two — both of them millionaires — promised that together they would fight for the middle class. And they criticized Bush.

Still, the entire day had a celebratory feel — part of the campaign’s plan to introduce the Democratic ticket before the convention July 26-29 in Boston — and it was definitely a family affair.

Earlier, the senators, their wives and children at their sides, made their first joint appearance on the Kerry family’s estate in suburban Pittsburgh. Kerry and Edwards held their wives’ hands and chatted and laughed as they walked across a field at the estate. The couples’ seven children followed.

‘Passion, conviction and strength’
“John Edwards and his family represent a life of fighting to provide hope and opportunity for people,” Kerry said, calling Edwards as a man with “passion, conviction and strength.”

Edwards, a constant grin on his face, said he had assumed when Kerry called him on Tuesday morning that it was another reporter calling.

“This is a great privilege for me — a great opportunity to serve my country, which I love so dearly,” Edwards said.

Video: Poll: Democrats advance

From the Cleveland mayor’s office, Kerry and Edwards spoke by video conference to the National Education Association’s annual meeting in Washington. Kerry had canceled a speech to the union Tuesday, the day Edwards joined the ticket.

“Something came up folks. I know you understand,” Kerry said.

The candidates reprised their performances at a rally in Dayton before moving on to Clearwater, Fla., as part of a four-day joint campaign trip that ends Saturday in Raleigh.

In the NBC poll, which was taken immediately after Kerry’s selection of Edwards was reported, respondents were asked which pairing they would choose if the election were held today. Forty-nine percent chose the Democrats against 41 percent for the incumbents.

A further 4 percent opted for the independent ticket of Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo, while 6 percent declined to answer. The overnight poll, carried out for NBC by Princeton Survey Research, reported a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Kerry and Edwards are the first senators to serve on the same ticket since 1972, when Democrats George McGovern of South Dakota and Thomas Eagleton of Missouri teamed up.

Kerry campaign defends Edwards’ experience
Amid questions about the depth of Edwards’ experience after less than six years in the Senate, the campaign defended the selection Wednesday by pointing to his service on the Intelligence Committee and his participation in an inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“He brings a great deal to the table and actually more than the current president did when he was elected in 2000,” Mary Beth Cahill, the Kerry-Edwards campaign manager, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Bush dismissed Edwards’ credentials with a joke. Asked Wednesday at a rally in North Carolina, Edwards’ home state, how Edwards would “stack up against Dick Cheney?” the president responded: “Dick Cheney can be the president. Next?”

Bush also predicted that Edwards would not be able to deliver the South for the Democrats.

“When they go to the polls to vote for president, they’ll understand the senator from Massachusetts doesn’t share their values,” Bush said in Raleigh. “I’m going to carry the South because the people understand that they share — we share values.”

‘Not a very balanced ticket’
On Capitol Hill, House Republican leaders dismissed Edwards as a liberal Democrat and doubted he would win the party serious support in Southern states.

“It’s not a very balanced ticket,” House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told reporters. “Senator Kerry is the No. 1 liberal in the Senate, and Senator Edwards is the No. 4 liberal in the Senate.”

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said: “There has been a trend over the years that has rejected those liberals that come home and talk conservative. That’s why Republicans are the overwhelming majority party all across the South.”

Although Hastert said Edwards “didn’t even carry his own state against Kerry,” Edwards won both his native South Carolina during the competitive phase of the primary race and then North Carolina, which gave him a victory even after he had dropped from the race.

The Bush-Cheney campaign was preparing an ad suggesting that Edwards was second choice behind Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. However, the Kerry campaign said there had been no offer for McCain to reject.

“There was no serious dialogue in the end, no offer in the end,” Jim Johnson, who ran the selection process for Kerry, said on CBS’s “Early Show.”

NBC’s Carl Quintanilla in Cleveland and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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