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Inside Politics

Dems race to 'Super Tuesday'

In debate, Kerry, Edwards spar over trade

John Kerry and John Edwards shake hands before debating, along with Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton, in New York.
John Kerry and John Edwards shake hands before debating, along with Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton, in New York.

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Stay with CNN-USA for a special look at "Super Tuesday" on "Paula Zahn Now" at 8 p.m. ET Monday -- and live reports and updates all night on the 10-state primary battle to come. Then on Tuesday, watch for Wolf Blitzer's interview with Vice President Dick Cheney at 5 p.m ET.
In like a lion ... Marching to 'Super Tuesday' 
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"Super Tuesday," March 2: Primaries in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Georgia; caucuses in Minnesota

 Tuesday, March 9: Primaries in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas

When is your primary? For more key dates in the 2004 election season, see our special America Votes 2004 Election Calendar
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International Trade

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Facing off in the last debate before Tuesday's nominating contests in 10 states, the four Democratic presidential contenders united in their attacks on the Bush administration for its handling of Haiti but quarreled over economic issues.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, hoping to advance on front-runner Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, stepped up his attacks against Kerry on trade, an issue that has helped energize Edwards' campaign in recent weeks.

Edwards described the two men's stances on the issue as "fundamentally different," but provided few details other than saying he would, as president, change the U.S. trade agreements and that Kerry, as president, would first appoint a committee to study them.

"What you're going to say to a family that's lost their job because of bad trade agreements is, 'Don't worry, we've got a Washington committee that's studying this for you,'" Edwards said in Sunday's event.

Edwards listed several trade agreements he opposed but Kerry supported, and said trade agreements are sending jobs overseas.

He has frequently said he opposes the North American Free Trade Agreement, although he was not in the Senate when Congress passed it in 1993. The original agreement was signed the year before by the first President Bush.

Kerry responded that there is no difference between what either Edwards or he would do about trade as president.

He said he has "consistently fought to put in the trade agreements enforceable measures that allow us to stand up and fight for workers" -- but he said the current President Bush has not enforced them.

Kerry pointed to the China trade agreements, which Edwards voted for.

"To listen to John try to carve out this -- what I think is sort of a protectionist point of view ... is not documented by the record," Kerry said.

"John Edwards has been in the Senate for five years. He's talked more in the last five weeks about trade than he has in the entire five years."

Edwards, who has been courting Howard Dean supporters, several times used "Washington-outsider" language similar to what Dean used before he dropped out of the race.

It is a position taken by many candidates who have not held national office before running for president, including Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Kerry and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio also have been trying to tap the network of Dean supporters. ('s interactive Election Calendar)

"My question is, do you believe we're going to change this country out of Washington, D.C.?" Edwards asked Kerry.

Kerry responded that change would come from Washington "because that's where the Congress of the United States is, and that's where 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is.

"And the answer is, We're going to need a president who has the experience and the proven ability -- proven ability -- to be able to stand up and take on tough fights."

The format for Sunday's debate, sponsored by CBS and The New York Times, was similar to that of Thursday's CNN/Los Angeles Times debate, minus the live audience at CBS Studios in New York.

Edwards, Kerry, Kucinich and the Rev. Al Sharpton sat at a table taking questions from CBS anchor Dan Rather, New York Times reporter Elizabeth Bumiller and WCBS-TV reporter Andrew Kirtzman.

There were no time limits for answers and no system to ensure everyone got a chance to speak.

The journalists frequently interrupted the candidates -- at times just a few seconds into an answer and at times to try to ensure the candidate answered the question.

More than a dozen times, four people began speaking at once until it was finally decided who had the floor.

The free-for-all led Sharpton, a New York civil rights activist, to accuse the journalists of trying to limit the discussion.

"I think that your attempt to do this is blatant, and I'm going to call you out on it, because I'm not going to sit here and be window dressing," he said to Bumiller.

"Well, I'm not going to be addressed like this," she responded.

"Well, then let all of us speak," said Sharpton.

All four Democrats lambasted the Bush administration's handling of the Haiti crisis and expressed support for an international force, including U.S. troops, to go to the country and help bring stability. (U.S. Marines land in Haiti)

"He's late, as usual," said Kerry. "This president always makes decisions late, after things have happened that could have been different had the president made a different decision earlier.

"By giving to the insurgents the power to veto an agreement, they effectively said, 'Unless you two reach an agreement on the sharing of power, we're not going to provide aid and assistance,'" Kerry said.

"So he empowered the insurgents to say, 'No, we're not going to reach agreement.' ... So the result is that you almost inevitably had the clash that you have today."

Edwards said Bush "ignored Haiti the same way he's ignored most of the countries in this hemisphere. ... We should have been engaged over a long period of time, in a serious way, at least through diplomacy, not to allow this to get to a crisis situation where it now is."

Sharpton said he had been to Haiti several times and spoke by phone earlier this week with opposition leaders and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who resigned early Sunday.

"What we need to do, first of all, is allow Haiti to have the resources. The World Bank had approved a $500 million loan that this country has blocked," Sharpton said.

"This administration, as well as prior administrations, should have made sure the World Bank loans had gone through. The resources were available. You almost set up a situation where Aristide had to fail."

After the debate, Edwards was asked on CNN's "Late Edition" whether things were getting nastier between him and Kerry.

"Absolutely not. John Kerry and I are friends, I have enormous respect for him. But there are real differences and we present real choices," Edwards said.

Of the 21 primaries and caucuses held so far, Kerry has won 19, while Edwards has won only his native state of South Carolina.

Kerry has rolled up 754 delegates; Edwards, 220; Dean, 175; Sharpton, 16; and Kucinich, 9. To get the nomination, a candidate needs 2,162 delegates at this summer's Democratic National Convention. ('s interactive Delegate Scorecard)

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