Washington Prowler

Picky Kerry

Edwards put in his place -- the inside story.

By 7.7.04

Sen. John Kerry made the phone call to Sen. John Edwards late Monday night, after sharing the news of his decision with his wife, Terry Kerry, his vice presidential vetter, Jim Johnson, and campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill. Johnson then facilitated the phone calls to everyone else involved.

Surprisingly, Kerry was adamant about making the announcement without Edwards being present, an oddity in modern politics, even for a man such as Kerry obsessed with public image. The Kerry campaign spun Edwards' absence from the Tuesday morning announcement by first claiming that it was no big deal (Edwards did a phoner with reporters immediately after the announcement), and then, when that didn't fly, by claiming that the announcement was supposed to be on Wednesday, but fear of leaks pushed the announcement up.

In the end, though, say Kerry insiders, they believe it had everything to do with keeping Edwards in his place.

"This selection was not entirely the senator's to make," says a former Kerry adviser. "Despite everything that has been said about a one-man decision, he was getting lots of pressure from outsiders to get Edwards on the ticket. And let's be honest, everyone has known from day one that Edwards was campaigning for this slot throughout the primary season. Kerry knows this is a good pick, but there is unease there that he has picked a man who will overshadow him as a personality and as a speaker. I am not surprised that he left Edwards in Washington and kept the spotlight on himself. That is so John Kerry."

In reality, though, Kerry's choosing Edwards was not the safest pick he could have made. In the late days of the selection process, Kerry was shown private polling done for the campaign that showed that Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack might have been the more interesting pick. "Vilsack's numbers showed slightly higher 'satisfactory' levels among Democrats and independents than Edwards," says a Kerry campaign staffer. "Edwards was a safer pick, but Vilsack might have presented Kerry with a better risk/rewards return. Now we'll never know."

Edwards had offered to doubletime it to Pittsburgh for the Tuesday morning event, but Kerry insisted that Edwards not make the effort, instead telling him to report for duty for a private dinner with their spouses on Tuesday evening.

Some Republicans in the Senate are pleased with the Edwards pick, not because they think the presidential race will be any easier, but because Democrats will now find themselves one more vote short on critical issues.

"Edwards is either going to abandon his colleagues in the Senate, or have to be on a very short leash and ready to fly back for votes on a moment's notice," says a Republican staffer on the Rules Committee. "Either way, his presence on the ticket and lack of presence on the Senate floor presents us with some interesting opportunities."

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