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Inside Politics

Edwards revives memories of Florida 2000


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ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- Democratic vice presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards vowed Sunday to get out the vote in the Sunshine State, site of the controversial 2000 presidential election recount.

"We will get voters registered, we will get voters mobilized, we will get voters to the polls!" Edwards said during a campaign stop at Orlando's St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church. "We're going to make sure that all those voters that go to the polls and cast their votes, that [their] votes are counted this time."

Edwards, of North Carolina, was following the lead of AME Bishop McKinley Young, who had enthusiastically introduced him.

"The eyes of the world will be on Florida again this year," Young told the congregation of about 400 people. "Thousands of votes were not counted" in 2000, he said, depriving Floridians of a "sacred right" won through "blood, sweat, tears and death."

In the aftermath of the 2000 election there were various unconfirmed reports alleging that registered voters had been blocked from polling places on Election Day, and that many ballots from areas that included large numbers of minorities, who might have voted for the Democratic ticket, were never included in the vote count.

Candidate George W. Bush edged then-Vice President Al Gore in Florida by a margin of 537 votes, enough to win the state's 25 electoral votes and, with them, the White House.

Turning to the economy, Edwards referred to a story in Sunday editions of The New York Times that said hourly wages are not keeping pace with inflation. "Is that a news bulletin to you?" Edwards asked the congregants.

"No!" many responded in unison.

"I am here to tell you hope is on the way," Edwards said.

Edwards focused the rest of his brief remarks on his running mate, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and his stump talking points:

  • On values -- judging politicians by what they fight for, not what they say in a political ad;
  • On stronger alliances -- so no Americans go to war "needlessly because America has decided to go it alone";
  • And on integrity -- "every day he is in the White House he [Kerry] is going to tell the American people the truth."
  • President Bush's campaign has accused Kerry of flip-flopping on issues, including the war in Iraq.

    Edwards later moved on to a Kerry-Edwards fund-raising luncheon in Orlando -- considered a swing region of the state -- where he attacked the anticipated Republican tactic of labeling the Democratic ticket as liberal.

    Edwards says he and Kerry should have their values judged by "what they've spent their life doing, what they've fought for, what they believe in."

    The Florida appointments -- part of his first solo campaign trip since John Kerry picked him as running mate -- also saw Edwards developing a new stump speech.

    The evolving remarks are filled with praise of Kerry and his Navy combat record of service in Vietnam and veiled criticism of the Bush-Cheney administration, though the senator has not been mentioning the rivals by name.

    "We need a commander-in-chief like John Kerry who will lead the world, not bully it," Edwards now says.

    But the main point of his primary campaign stump speech that remains intact is his pledge to better address the needs of the 35 million Americans who live in poverty.

    "When we're running this country we're going to say 'No' in a country of our wealth to having kids going to bed hungry," Edwards says. "We are going to say 'No' forever to any American working full-time for minimum wage and still living in poverty."

    In 2000, Gore fought a legal battle for a statewide recount amid acrimonious claim and counterclaim by both parties.

    The Supreme Court ruled to end the Florida recount request, making Bush the winner of Florida's crucial 25 electoral votes and therefore the winner of the election. Gore, however won a majority of the national popular vote.

    Later, a comprehensive study of the 2000 vote in Florida suggested that if the Supreme Court had allowed the recount to proceed, Bush would still have been elected president.

    The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago conducted the six-month study for a consortium of eight news media companies, including CNN.

    CNN's Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.


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