EDWARDS OFF BASE
Sen. John Edwards may not be talking about his political future, but a whole lot of other people are. Edwards has been bristling at ongoing questioning about whether he will continue his run for the presidency or focus on winning re-election to the Senate seat he currently holds. Thus far, he has said he is doing both.
Democrats in North Carolina aren't happy about that, and have doing what they can to push their former golden boy toward some final decision on his political future. What troubles the state party types is that Republican Rep. Richard Burr, who is running for the Senate nomination of his party, has been raising money and building up name recognition -- and poaching conservative Democrat money, too -- with little if any opposition from the man whose job he wishes to take. Already, Burr has more than $3 million raised with another $1.5 million due to be raised over the next month, in part thanks to an appearance by Vice President Dick Cheney.
"It's remarkable that he [Edwards] has frittered away his standing in the state in order to pursue the presidency," says one state Democratic Party activist in Charlotte. "We're not saying he shouldn't be able to run for president. We just wish he do one or the other. This Senate seat is important to a lot of people in this state."
It isn't as if Edwards doesn't know. Over the summer, he met with former Clinton chief of staff and possible candidate Erskine Bowles at the request of the state Democratic Party. The two men refused to appear together after the meeting, and little was said, beyond underlings noting that no decision had been made.
Another potential candidate, former statehouse leader Dan Blue, has also said he is of a mind to run for the seat if Edwards steps aside.
"We have two men focused on the state, on our party, ready to run. Edwards has to make up his mind," says the party activist.
Or, someone can make it up for him. On Tuesday, after private discussions with state Democratic leaders, former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt told reporters that he expected Edwards to abandon his Senate candidacy and focus on the presidential run. He pointed to Edwards' September 16 formal presidential announcement date as one that will give the state Democrats the answer they have been looking for.
Hunt isn't just a rabble-rouser trying to force Edwards' hand. He's part of Edwards' inner-circle, and surely would not have extended his remarks to put Edwards in a tighter spot than he is already in.
"Edwards will have to make a choice, and he's in too deep in the presidential stuff to pull out now. He has to be in it for at least the next six to eight months," says a DNC staffer in Washington. "That, or he gets out and runs for the Senate. But that wouldn't be an announcement for September 16th."
Some in North Carolina view Hunt's comments as the clearest message to date about their senior Senator's intentions. "It gives Bowles and Blue a bit more information to go on, that's for sure," says the Charlotte operative.
So what was in those brownies? Perhaps in hopes of doping up the press corps that covered Sen. John Kerry's Tuesday announcement that he is running for president, Kerry's trophy wife, Terry Kerry (she of Heinz family fortune fame), passed around a tray of brownies she claimed she'd baked. Reporters on the flight down to Charleston gobbled them up, then proceeded to oversell attendance at the event in front of the USS Yorktown. Conservative estimates put attendance at about 200 to 250 people. Hallucinatory press reports put that number at upwards of 400 or more. On a happier note, no one in the small crowd was said to be French-looking.
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