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House GOP Readies for Edwards-Bashing Week

One day after Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) chose Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) as his running mate, House Republicans began planning a message campaign and legislative efforts to portray the North Carolinian as an anti-business liberal.

The Bush-Cheney campaign, the Republican National Committee and the Senate GOP have already started their offensive against the vice presidential candidate. For their part, House Republicans are recasting their pre-existing floor agenda, which this week focuses on research and innovation, as a way to make Edwards look bad.

“We are especially focused on improving competitiveness in this country,” Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said after Wednesday morning’s Republican Conference meeting. “That is why we are so concerned about Senator Kerry’s selection of Senator John Edwards. Senator Edwards’ trial lawyer agenda will kill jobs in this country.”

The House is currently in week five of the GOP’s eight-week “Careers for a 21st Century America” agenda. The eighth week, which will fall in September after the summer recess, will focus on “ending lawsuit abuse,” giving Republicans a tailor-made opening to rail against Edwards on the House floor.

After describing plans for that week during a session with reporters Wednesday, Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said, “Senator Edwards, call your office.”

But Republicans won’t wait until September before they begin their floor attack. On Monday, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) will lead a series of special order speeches on Edwards. Kingston, the head of the Conference’s “theme team,” plans to recruit speakers on the subject during the message group’s regular meeting today.

In addition to criticizing Edwards for his background as a trial lawyer, Republican Members and aides said they planned to level broader attacks against Edwards’ entire voting record, arguing that he is just as liberal as Kerry but has tried to portray himself as a centrist.

Edwards’ history of opposing free trade will likely be another target next week, which the House GOP has dubbed “trade week.”