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Inside Politics

Bush brings fight to Edwards' home state

Criticizes Edwards for blocking nominees


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RALEIGH, North Carolina (CNN) -- President Bush traveled Wednesday to Sen. John Edwards' back yard, where he criticized John Kerry's new running mate for blocking two judicial nominations and declared that the Bush-Cheney ticket will again win in Edwards' home state of North Carolina.

In an event that had been scheduled before it was known Kerry would choose Edwards for the number-two spot on the Democratic ticket, Bush met with three North Carolina men he has nominated for federal judgeships, but whose confirmations have been blocked in the Senate.

"Senator Edwards will not allow two of the nominees ... to even get to the committee for a hearing," Bush said in his only mention of Edwards by name.

The president answered several questions concerning Edwards, including one from a journalist who asked, "How does he stack up against Dick Cheney?"

"Dick Cheney can be president," Bush said, an apparent swipe at the 51-year-old Democrat's limited political experience. He then asked for the next question.

Bush expressed confidence he would win North Carolina -- as well as the rest of the South -- in November, despite Edwards' name on the Democratic ticket.

"I did well here in 2000 because the North Carolinian voters understood we shared values," Bush said. "I am going to do well again in 2004. They know we share those values."

"I also know that when they go to the polls to vote for president that they'll understand that the senator from Massachusetts doesn't share their values," Bush said, referring to Kerry.

One such value Bush talked about Wednesday concerned the selection of federal judges.

"A minority of senators apparently don't want judges who strictly interpret and apply the law," Bush said. "Evidently, they want activist judges who will rewrite the law from the bench."

Senate tradition allows senators to block judicial nominations in their home states.

Edwards has blocked Terrence Boyle's nomination to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit, which Bush sent to the Senate three years ago.

Edwards has also prevented Bush's nomination of former U.S. Attorney Robert Conrad for a district judgeship from being considered by the Senate Judicial Committee.

Edwards' press secretary Mike Briggs said the senator wants to speak with White House officials about his concerns over nominees.

President Clinton faced similar challenges getting his judicial nominees through the Senate -- including staunch opposition from Jesse Helms, who was then the senator from North Carolina.

In fact, Democrats argue Edwards has been a big improvement over Helms, and worked with Bush to help him win confirmation of Republican Allyson Duncan.

Bush leads Kerry in North Carolina polls, but Edwards predicted he will help Kerry pick up votes in the state and throughout the region. "The South is not George Bush's back yard, it's my back yard," he often says, "and I'll beat George Bush in my back yard."


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