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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 July, 2004, 01:18 GMT 02:18 UK
Analysis: A rounded ticket
By Ian Pannell
BBC Washington correspondent

John Kerry (left) and John Edwards
Kerry (left) kept his choice a secret until the last minute
It has been derided as "the most insignificant office that ever the imagination of man contrived".

But when John Kerry announced his choice for vice-president, the crowd in Pittsburgh roared.

This is the red meat the Democratic faithful have been craving.

Above all else they think it gives their man a much better shot at the White House come November.

John Edwards is the good-looking senator for North Carolina whose life story seems to embody the American dream that he sells so well.

He was born the son of a poor mill worker, and was the first in his family to go to university. He became a successful millionaire trial lawyer who turned to politics after his son, Wade, died in a car-crash.

John Edwards in his North Moore High School Mustangs football kit in 1970
John Edwards' blue collar, rural roots will appeal to small-town America
It is a compelling tale, one that helped propel what should have been a third-rate campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year into a very respectable second place.

But it was his campaigning skills that helped Mr Edwards rise above other, far more qualified opponents.

He has been described as the closest thing to seeing Elvis on a campaign trail, as Bill Clinton without the scandals.

His Cheshire cat smile and glad-handing skills, as well as his ability to communicate a down-home message to ordinary people, have motivated Democratic loyalists and won many converts.

That is why Mr Edwards was, in lots of ways, an obvious choice.

He is everything Mr Kerry is not, making the ticket more rounded.

The decision allows the Democrats to try and pull in some of those crucial swing-voters - people in the rural communities of the Midwest - as well as inspiring specific groups like single women and young people.

One elderly supporter in Pittsburgh said: "Kerry is patrician. Edwards is young, spirited, from the South."

Her husband agreed: "He's the man who can help Kerry the most."

It also suggests that the campaign is not content to sit back and hope that this will be an election for George W Bush to lose, rather than one for Mr Kerry to win.

Dream team?

But if the news from Iraq improves and the American people begin to believe in the economic recovery before their eyes, then the Kerry camp could be in trouble.

So expect a more proactive and forward-leaning campaign. One that mixes the foreign policy and national security strengths of the presidential candidate with the kind of upbeat domestic message that Mr Edwards has become known for.

Sound like a dream team?

Well, there are many Republicans who will have already begun to put energy and resources into convincing the American people otherwise.

The Republican National Committee website calls Mr Edwards a "disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal".

In fact, you don't even have to take the Republicans' word for it.

When they were rivals for the presidential nomination, Mr Kerry famously derided his opponent's lack of experience, suggesting Mr Edwards was probably in "diapers" when he himself returned from serving in Vietnam.

Youth may be an attraction, but in a year when national security is such a crucial issue, Mr Edwards's lack of experience could yet prove a liability.

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