2004 Election John Edwards Issue Positions

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John Edwards' 2004 Democratic Presidential Candidacy

Edwards unofficially began his presidential campaign as early as 2001, when he began to seek speaking engagements in Iowa, the site of the nation's first party caucuses. On September 15, 2003, Edwards unofficially announced his intention to seek the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, thus fulfilling a promise he made as a guest during TDS' coverage of the 2002 Mid-Term Elections. The next morning, Edwards made the announcement official from his hometown, Robbins, North Carolina. He declined to run for re-election to the Senate in that same year.

As Edwards had been building support for a presidential bid essentially since his election to the Senate, he led the initial campaign fundraising, amassing over $7 million during the first quarter of 2003, more than half of which came from individuals associated with the legal profession, particularly Edwards' fellow trial lawyers, their families, and employees.

Edwards' campaign was often characterized by the American news media as populist; his stump speech spoke of "two Americas;" one composed of the wealthy and privileged, and the other of the hard-working common man. (Excerpt from "two Americas" stump speech) His refusal to level direct negative attacks at his fellow Democratic contenders also attracted attention.

After campaigning for most of 2003, Edwards' campaign struggled to gain large support in the Democratic Party. But in early 2004, weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Edwards began to catch fire and his support and poll numbers began to rise steadily. Edwards' late stage momentum, as well as his departure from the negative campaigning which characterized other leading candidates, carried him into a surprising second place finish in Iowa, behind only John Kerry and ahead of former front-runner Howard Dean. Edwards finished with 12% support in the New Hampshire primary one week later, essentially tied for third place position with Wesley Clark.

As Kerry appeared to claim the front runner position following wins in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, many Democrats speculated on the desirability of a Kerry-Edwards ticket; however, Edwards indicated on January 28, 2004 that he has no interest in running as vice president. [1]

Edwards' presidential aspirations were boosted when, on February 3, 2004, he won the South Carolina Democratic primary with 46% of the Democratic vote, outshowing Kerry's 30% result. Edwards had declared that he "must win" the state in order to remain in the race. Edwards also polled ahead of Kerry in the Oklahoma primary that same day, losing that state to Clark by less than 1,300 votes.

The following week, on February 10, Edwards finished second place in the southern states of Virginia and Tennessee, well behind frontrunner Kerry in both states. Edwards had hoped to capitalize on a southern victory to boost his campaign, but he vowed to remain in the presidential race through the Super Tuesday primaries in early March. On February 17 his campaign gained further momentum when he nearly defeated Kerry in the Wisconsin primary; with Howard Dean's withdrawal from the contest the following day, Edwards became the only major challenger to Kerry for the Democratic nomination. Remarking on his unexpectedly strong finish, Edwards humorously cautioned Kerry: "Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear."

As the major challenger to John Kerry, Edwards emphasized the relatively few policy differences between the two. He particularly emphasized his disapproval of NAFTA, which Kerry had supported, and his southern background, suggesting that he would be better able to earn support in the predominantly-Republican south than his rival from New England.

Edwards maintained a positive campaign and largely avoided attacking Kerry until a February 29, 2004 debate in New York, where he attempted to put Kerry on the defensive by characterizing the front-runner as a "Washington insider" and by mocking Kerry's plan to form a committee to examine trade agreements.

Edwards' campaign ended after a disappointing finish in the Super Tuesday primaries on March 2, when Kerry finished well ahead of Edwards in eight of the 10 states voting that day. (Dean won his native state of Vermont.) Edwards finished only slightly behind Kerry in Georgia, but, failing to win a single state, chose to withdraw from the presidential race. He announced his official withdrawal at a Raleigh, North Carolina press conference on March 3, 2004.

News of Edwards' withdrawal from the race made major media outlets relatively early on the evening of Super Tuesday, at about 6:30 PM CST, before polls had closed in California and before caucuses in Minnesota had even begun. This influenced many people in Minnesota to vote for other candidates, which may partially account for the strong showing of Dennis Kucinich in that state. Edwards did win the presidential straw poll conducted by the Independence Party of Minnesota.

As the last major contender to withdraw from the race, many political pundits speculated that Edwards' presidential bid was not a "serious" campaign, but merely an attempt to raise his national profile, perhaps to earn a vice-presidential spot on the Democratic ticket. Edwards is regarded as a strong contender for the 2008 presidential election, should President George W. Bush win re-election. On July 6th, 2004, presidential candidate John Kerry announced Edwards as his running mate.

Issue stances

While campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, Edwards completed the National Political Awareness Test. Some of Edwards' positions, ideas, and experiences with national issues which made up his campaign platform were:

  • National Service: Edwards believes in increasing military compensation. He supports increasing the servicemen's refundable child tax credit and improving the pay, housing, and health care for American troops. Edwards believes that more needs to be done to support soldiers' families and has introduced legislation to expand child care for families of active duty personnel and reservists.
  • Economy: Edwards proposed a plan to stimulate the economy in the short term while restoring the long-term fiscal discipline and leveling the playing field for American businesses. Edwards has fought for more resources to let individuals and communities recover from trade-related plant closings, and is a proponent of "fairer" trade agreements.
  • Education: Strengthening public schools is one of Edwards's top priorities. Edwards is against private-school voucher schemes.
  • Security & Foreign Policy: Edwards believes that the country must be protected, but not sacrificing rights and freedoms. Edwards believes in America's right to self-defense and working within the framework of international law. [2]
National Anti-Terrorism Policy: Edwards supported legislation to improve airport security, increase seaports safety, reduced vulnerability to bioterrorism, and enabled law enforcement agencies to keep known terrorists from entering the country. He cosponsored legislation to strengthen nuclear shipments safety (container strength, shipment escorts, and emergency coordination). Edwards is a proponent of legislation to fight cyberterrorism.
Intelligence Gathering: Edwards has proposed a new domestic intelligence agency to fight terrorist cells, strengthening security along borders, making terrorist targets less vulnerable to attack, and developing a better emergency warning system.
  • Immigration: Edwards favors increasing border security, reducing border deaths, and addressing the large inflow of undocumented workers. Edwards is a proponent of removing the backlog at the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to encourage family reunification. Edwards believes in expediting citizenship applications and waiving the processing fees of immigrants serving in the U.S. armed forces. Edwards opposes the proposal to create a guest worker program without a path to citizenship.
  • Law & Justice: Edwards opposes racial profiling. He favors fostering the due process rights of all those within American borders.
  • Gay Rights: Although Edwards does not support legalization of same-gender marriage, he opposes a Constitutional amendment to define marriage. He supports adoption rights for same-gender couples and overturning the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on non-heterosexuals in the U.S. military.

2004 presidential campaign: Edwards as VP candidate

John Kerry selected John Edwards as his vice-presidential candidate on July 6, 2004. Edwards' selection was based on many factors, not least of which was certainly his mastery of the stump speech and in-person campaigning.

Pundits and grass-roots activists had been calling for a Kerry-Edwards slate since well before Kerry unofficially wrapped up the nomination. Edwards remained popular on the campaign trail, and had broad support from Democratic and Independent voters, largely because of the populist message he brought to the Democratic campaign.

As of this writing (July 8, 2004) Edwards' "Two Americas" speech and rhetoric have already begun to appear in the Kerry-Edwards campaign stump speeches. It remains to be seen how the rhetoric influences Kerry's policy proposals.

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