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Inside Politics

Kerry names Edwards his running mate

'I know his strength. I know his conscience.'

Sen. John Edwards waves to reporters after leaving his Washington home Tuesday.
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John Kerry names John Edwards his running mate.

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John F. Kerry
John Edwards
America Votes 2004

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Democratic White House hopeful John Kerry on Tuesday tapped a Senate colleague and former rival Tuesday to be his running mate, calling John Edwards "a man who understands and defends the values of America."

Edwards, a one-term U.S. senator from North Carolina and highly successful trial lawyer, was Kerry's most persistent rival in the Democratic primaries, but he became one of his biggest boosters once he threw in the towel on his own campaign.

Kerry, who has been all but crowned for his party's presidential nomination, announced his choice to a cheering crowd here.

"I trust that met with your approval," Kerry, a four-term U.S. senator from Massachusetts, deadpanned.(Profile of John Edwards)

Although Edwards has served only one term in the Senate, Kerry said Edwards, 51, "is ready for this job."

"I've seen John Edwards think, argue, advocate and legislate for six years now," Kerry, 60, said.

"I know his skill. I know his passion. I know his strength. I know his conscience. I know his faith. He has honored the lessons of home and family that he learned in North Carolina, and he brings those values to shape a better America together with all of us."

It's the first time since 1960 -- when Sen. John F. Kennedy chose Sen. Lyndon Johnson as his running mate -- that two incumbent senators and former Democratic rivals are on a national ticket.

Edwards was not at the announcement -- a move Democratic sources said was designed to keep Kerry's decision secret for as long as possible.

Edwards smiled and flashed a thumbs-up sign later in the afternoon as he emerged from his home in the tony Georgetown neighborhood of Washington with his wife, Elizabeth, and their children.

He did not say anything, but in a written statement he spoke of his honor in joining the ticket.

"I was honored this morning to receive a call from Senator Kerry asking me to join his ticket," Edwards said. "I was humbled by his offer -- and thrilled to accept it."

Edwards and his wife were to join the Kerrys on Tuesday night at Teresa Heinz Kerry's estate outside Pittsburgh to prepare for their first joint appearance on Wednesday. The two men are scheduled to campaign Wednesday in Ohio, a key battleground state.

Balancing the ticket

The choice could help balance the Kerry ticket. (Poll: Kerry leads among minority voters)

Kerry is a Northeastern liberal; Edwards is a more moderate Southern Democrat. Kerry is a "Boston Brahmin" blue blood; Edwards, the son of a mill worker, made a fortune and gained a national reputation in legal circles as a skillful trial attorney.

He entered the Senate in 1998 and chose not to seek a second term when he decided to run for the presidency.

Edwards is known for his courtroom-honed oratorical skills and his youthful appeal which helped land him in People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive issue.

On the campaign trail for his own presidential bid, Edwards often described "two Americas" -- one for those of privilege, the other for those working just to get by.

After giving up his presidential bid last March, Edwards was quick to throw his support to Kerry, enthusiastically introducing his former rival as "the next president of the United States."

He also worked quickly to put the acrimony of the race behind them. In Edwards' final weeks seeking the Democratic nomination, he had attacked Kerry, portraying his rival as out of touch with everyday workers.

But even during that time, Edwards insisted that Kerry would be a far better president than George W. Bush -- and he has since heaped praise on him, saying he's proud to call Kerry a friend.

Democratic strategists say Edwards' presence on the ticket could also boost Kerry in key swing states -- particularly in the Midwest. (Gallery: CNN analysts on why Kerry chose Edwards)

Job losses have hit hard in the region, and Edwards proved his reach in some nominating contests -- particularly with a surprise second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

Cheney comparison

Still, Edwards is green as a politician, and Republicans signaled they were prepared to compare his experience with that of Vice President Dick Cheney.

While Cheney's relationship with Halliburton -- a large oil-services corporation that has won lucrative, no-bid contracts in Iraq -- and his staunch support for some of Bush's more controversial proposals have made him a political lightning rod, the Bush campaign has said it will emphasize his depth of political experience in the campaign.

For his part, Cheney called Edwards Tuesday morning to to congratulate him. A spokesman for Cheney for described the conversation as "brief and cordial"

Edwards' legal career will also likely come in for renewed scrutiny and criticism by Republicans. Bush has often criticized lawyers for what he describes as frivolous lawsuits and has repeatedly called for limits on lawsuits.

Before the announcement, the Kerry campaign distributed a memo to key Democrats, urging them to cede the spotlight to Kerry and his running mate the first day of the announcement, but to go out in force on the second day to rebut expected GOP attacks on his choice.

Within minutes after word of Kerry's choice leaked out, the Bush-Cheney camp released its newest television in an apparent attempt to remind voters that another senator named John -- Republican McCain of Arizona -- had rejected overtures from the Kerry camp.

The Democratic National Committee responded with an ad on its Web site, noting that McCain has been a critic of Bush in the past.

And McCain has also had complimentary things to say about Edwards, writing on the back cover of Edwards' book "Four Trials" that the senator "reveals the strength of his own character and gives the reader a look beyond a political biography into the heart of a good man."

Narrowing the field

The Kerry campaign said the vice-president search focused on roughly 25 choices, though it was believed to be a much narrower field of finalists.

Much of the speculation focused on Edwards, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri. ( Special Report: America Votes 2004 Veep Contenders)

The Democrats meet in Boston for their nominating convention at the end of this month. (Interactive:'s Special Report: America Votes 2004 Election Calendar)

In comments typical of Democrats, Gephardt praised the selecting of Edwards.

"I think John Edwards is a very exciting figure in American politics, and he is going to run a great campaign and be a great partner with John Kerry," Gephardt said.

CNN's Dana Bash, John King, Kelly Wallace, and Candy Crowley contributed to this report.

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