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John Edwards Tops Vice-President Field

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Will John F. Kerry make it a John-John ticket? John Kerry has the style of John Kennedy and John Edwards has the style of Bill Clinton. For democrats, that the perfect kind of match. Its like having Kennedy and Clinton in the whitehouse

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(CBS) By David Paul Kuhn,

CBSNews.com Chief Political Writer

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John Kerry will choose fellow senator John Edwards to be his vice presidential running mate. But no one wants to say it inside Washington, not so bluntly at least. Why is that?

The reason is twofold. First, Edwards is the most obvious, most likely and, by most informed guesses, the best selection. Second, vice presidential predictions are more often wrong than right.

So are we back to square one? Not quite. There are three candidates the Kerry campaign has clearly vetted. One is Edwards. The others are Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Gov. Thomas J. Vilsack of Iowa.

Why these three?

Tom Vilsack:

The least likely choice, most think. Nonetheless, he is one of Kerry's VP finalists. The case for the Iowa governor starts with the fact that he is a governor. The other two leading contenders are members of Congress. Vilsack makes the ticket look less haughty Washington and more heartland America.

Vilsack also has a compelling biography. Orphaned at birth, adopted, abused by his alcoholic mother, he became a lawyer, then a politician and finally a governor. It's pure Americana. A final factor is that Iowa is a swing state, although one with only seven electoral votes. Of course, President Bush was elected in 2000 by a smaller margin than that.

Dick Gephardt:

It's hard to find a national politician more loved by labor than Gephardt – something of depleting value as traditional labor jobs become depleted in the new economy. But think swing states, where labor still has considerable sway.

The hope is that Gephardt can deliver Missouri for Kerry. That's 11 electoral votes. It's possible he could also help swing the two states that have seen the highest job losses under the Bush presidency, Michigan and Ohio, to Kerry's side as well. That's 37 more electoral votes. That means President Kerry in 2005.

But Gephardt came up short in the primaries – even oh his home turf in the Midwest. And like Vilsack, he appears unexciting. And if Kerry is more like Vice President Al Gore than former President Clinton, then perhaps Kerry needs a Clinton as his running mate, not a Gore.

John Edwards:

The media likes John Edwards, like it liked John McCain when the maverick Republican ran against Mr. Bush in 2000. They are exciting men. Very political, yet somehow, on a personal level, they come off as apolitical – and tremendously personable.

Kerry wanted McCain as his VP to form the first unity ticket of modern times and to give him an almost guaranteed win. (A recent CBS News poll showed that Kerry-McCain would have almost surely trounced Bush-Cheney.) So McCain was number one and Edwards was number two. But McCain decided it would not be McCain-esque to jump party lines to stand behind Kerry. So now Edwards is number one.

Here’s why: Edwards had a hugely successful run against Kerry during the Democratic primary campaign. He comes into the Democratic convention with the second highest delegate total, after Kerry. Democratic congressmen like him because, with his broad appeal, he can help them win their local races.

Although Edwards lost to Kerry during the primaries, there was little bad blood and few low blows between the men – which was not the case with Mr. Bush and McCain in 2000.

At 50, Edwards is young and looks even younger. He is good looking, optimistic, a populist from a working poor background. Where Kerry comes off stiff and aloof, Edwards seems exciting and engaged.

Finally, Edwards comes from the South and although there is no chance the Democrats will take Dixie, his Southern comfort appeals nationally. People still like a gentleman.

So the question is, does Edwards help Kerry nearly as much in states like Missouri, Ohio and Michigan as the Midwesterners Gephardt and Vilsack, while also maintaining a national appeal and compensating for Kerry's weaknesses? The answer, according to most pundits, is yes.

There are still some other names in the mix. The fourth most-mentioned choice is former Gen. Wesley Clark. The onetime NATO Supreme Allied Commander, of centrist Southern values, carries national security credentials when national security matters this election year. But he had a mixed run in the primaries. He just seems to have left the political gate too early.

Charles Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, says some dark horses are former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn and former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin.

"But," says Cook, "the last time a journalist predicted a vice president was David Broder predicting Spiro Agnew in 1968. It would be a huge mistake to try and predict it. We are always wrong."

But still we try. Like most, Cook sees all signs pointing to Edwards.

"Does it look that way, yes," he admits begrudgingly. "But it's looked that way in the past... If you are not inside the head of the nominee you don't know."

Another dean of inside-Washington pundits is Stu Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. Rothenberg also would bet on Edwards if he had to bet, but it's gamble he will not make.

"I don't think you can say it is Edwards until John Kerry says it's Edwards. At the end of the day it comes down to whether people are comfortable with the choice," Rothenberg says.

Those close to Kerry say there may not be bad blood between him and Edwards, but there is a lack of comfort.

"But yes, it looks like we are down to a handful of people. Having said that," Rothenberg hesitates, "I just remember Dick Cheney. I remember Arnold Schwarzenegger. I remember too many of these things that when a name surfaced I said, 'Holy cow, that can't be.'"

Even Sen. Joe Lieberman?

"Yes, even Joe Lieberman," Rothenberg says. "Even Dan Quayle. Even Geraldine Ferraro."

Even who, in 2004, if not Edwards, Vilsack or Gephardt? Best guess, from sources, is that we'll know the answer the week after the July 4 holiday.

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Updated poll: Whom should John Kerry choose as his running mate?

Sen. Evan Bayh:

3.90%

Gen. Wesley Clark:

17.61%

Sen. John Edwards:

54.40%

Rep. Dick Gephardt:

4.46%

Sen. Bob Graham:

3.12%

Sen Bill Nelson:

1.11%

Gov. Bill Richardson:

5.13%

Gov. Tom Vilsack:

2.34%

Gov. Mark Warner:

3.46%

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If Hillary is the same Hillary we have all come to know and love, she won't let the White House slip out of her grasp for 12-16 years. If Kerry wins with Edwards then Kerry is the nominee in 2008, if hes strong (which he probably will be if he can beat Bush in 2004) then Edwards is the nominee in 2012 and then a STRONG nominee in 2016 if not an incumbent president. I do not believe Hillary is gonna sit back and take that. That lady wants to be Prez one day, and one day is now if she hopes to get there in the next 16 years--a lifetime in Politics.

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