Video: VP choice was tough for Kerry

By Chief foreign affairs correspondent
NBC News
updated 7/7/2004 10:18:29 AM ET 2004-07-07T14:18:29

John Kerry had to get used to the idea of picking John Edwards, in what became a political dating game that proved opposites can attract.

John Edwards is a Southern populist, the son of a mill worker, a self-made millionaire and an electrifying campaigner.

Aides say, initially, Edwards was a tough sell to Kerry - a Boston Brahmin. Not only had they been fierce rivals during the primaries, but aides say Kerry had been leaning toward Florida Senator Bob Graham — who is more experienced, a good friend, and more likely to bring with him Florida's 27 electoral votes.  Other aides were promoting Dick Gephardt as the safest choice.  Aides say Edwards, the trial lawyer, had to make his biggest case.

So Kerry and Edwards met, sometimes secretly, to talk.  Most recently, 10:30 at night on July 1.  Kerry waited for reporters outside his Georgetown home to leave, then slipped out a back door with one Secret Service agent and met Edwards two blocks away, at the home of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Kerry is finally comfortable that Edwards has enough experience. "Does he have the capacity to step in and be president, God forbid, should that need arise?"  asks Steven Jarding, a former Edwards strategist. "I think the fact that John Kerry selected him clearly indicates he jumped that hurdle."

Edwards passed Al Gore's background checks four years ago, was tested again during this year's primaries, and he was the first choice of influential party members like Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and most House Democrats — even some of Gephardt's closest friends.

Their arguments? Edwards was a strong campaigner, who might even give the ticket a Southern strategy — challenging the president in North and South Carolina, Virginia, even Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Florida.  "What Kerry's trying to do is to split the South — take a couple of Southern states. If he can do that ... then it makes it very difficult for the Republicans to win," says Southern political analyst Merle Black.

And what about those perceived negatives?  Too liberal, a trial lawyer who could be caricatured as an "ambulance chaser," and too inexperienced to be commander in chief?  The campaign says they'll disprove all that when Edwards debates Dick Cheney. 

But how good is this political match?  Edwards still has to prove he can keep his ambitions in check and avoid overshadowing John Kerry.

© 2013  Reprints


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments