Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Edwards, Kerry hold friendly debate

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) — Democratic presidential hopefuls John Kerry and John Edwards sparred over trade in a polite debate Thursday and disagreed about who had the best chance to defeat President Bush in November.

But Edwards made no effort to attack Kerry, the frontrunner in the race, or draw sharp distinctions with the Massachusetts senator just five days before a crucial 10-state “Super Tuesday” showdown, and the two agreed frequently.

The prime contenders for the nomination to challenge Bush defended their votes to authorize the war in Iraq and said they opposed gay marriage but believed the issue should be left to the states.

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Kerry, who has dominated the Democratic race with wins in 18 of the first 20 contests, took issue with Edwards’ contention he would be the strongest candidate in the South and that he attracted the most support among the independent voters whom Democrats will need to win in November.

“There’s nothing, nothing in the returns in 18 out of 20 primaries and caucuses so far that documents what John Edwards has just said,” Kerry said in a debate at the University of Southern California.

“I won in Tennessee and I won in Virginia,” said the four-term Massachusetts senator. “John has said many times, ‘We’ve got to stop stereotyping the people in the South.’ The people in the South believe the same things as people in the rest of the country.”

Edwards, a first-term senator from North Carolina who was a trial lawyer before he was elected in 1998, said polls in states like Wisconsin, Tennessee and Virginia showed he performed better with independents.

He touted his outsider perspective and working-class background as the son of a mill worker, saying it made him better suited to tackle problems in Washington, D.C.

“We need a candidate at the top of this ticket who can connect with voters everywhere in America,” Edwards said. “And if we don’t have that, we’re going to be in trouble.”

Along with a Sunday debate in New York, the two forums offer Edwards his most public platform to stop Kerry’s march to the nomination to face Bush in November.

The 10 states that vote Tuesday include big prizes like California, New York and Ohio. A total of 1,151 delegates are at stake, more than half of the 2,162 needed to win. Kerry would not have enough delegates to win the nomination with another dominating performance, but Edwards would have little incentive to push on.

Edwards has made his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and his plans to protect American jobs the centerpiece of his campaign. In the debate, he pointed to votes on fast-track trade authority for the president, as well as trade pacts with Chile, Singapore, African and Caribbean nations that he opposed and Kerry supported.

“There is a difference between Sen. Kerry and myself,” Edwards said. “These agreements did not have the kind of labor and environmental protections that needed to be in the text of the agreement and be enforced.”

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