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House Democrats Woo Edwards

House Democrats are expected to meet privately this week with newly named vice presidential candidate John Edwards, hoping to get face time with the North Carolina Senator before the party’s convention later this month.

Democratic leaders invited Edwards to sit down with them last week after presidential hopeful John Kerry tapped him as his running mate. While leaders are still coordinating their schedule with Edwards’, they expect a meeting with the full Caucus to occur by Thursday.

“The earlier the better,” said Caucus Vice Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.) of Edwards’ visit. “I think having Senator Edwards come to the full Caucus now, before the convention, will help create an atmosphere for the convention that we want to be contaminating.”

“We want to make sure everyone is on the same page, on the same card and in support of the message,” Clyburn added. “We don’t want to wait until after the convention.”

“The team-building effect is really, really important,” said Rep. Albert Wynn (Md.), one of Edwards’ chief House allies. “This is part of that.”

Beyond a private sit-down with Edwards, however, leaders also plan to coordinate with Kerry’s No. 2 on the campaign trail. Democratic leaders said that Edwards, a Southerner from humble beginnings who is known for his personal charm and energy, can help draw voters and boost House Democratic chances in swing districts and rural areas across the country.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Edwards told her after the announcement last week “that he wanted to do all he can to help us win the House for the Democrats.”

Kori Bernards, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said party officials are currently looking at Edwards’ schedule to find opportunities where they can coordinate with him on the trail. She said that House Democrats believe Edwards can help bolster the chances of House candidates in Southern states such as Georgia, Florida and North Carolina, as well as rural states where seats are in play.

“Besides being from the South, Edwards represents middle-class values and is a candidate who can speak to people of like backgrounds, working-class backgrounds,” Bernards said. “I think he will help those folks, as well as the Kerry ticket in general.”

While it’s too early to say how closely Edwards’ campaign plans will dovetail with those of House Democrats, Members anticipate at least some overlap.

Some stressed privately, however, that Edwards may not be conservative enough to help some of the most vulnerable House Democrats this cycle.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) said that there already is a lot of enthusiasm in the Caucus for Edwards, believing he will help House Democrats “by being on the ticket and help carry states and by going into certain districts.”

“My gut tells me certain places will want to use Edwards, and Edwards will be used strategically,” he added.

Rep. Allen Boyd (Fla.), a prominent member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, said he hasn’t yet talked to his colleagues about Edwards’ role in the House Democratic races, but said he believes candidates will make “individual choices” about whether to link up with him on the trail.

“Each one of us looks at our relationship with Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry individually, rather than as a group,” Boyd said.

Rep. David Price (N.C.) said if the “groundswell” of support for Edwards over the past few months is any indication, “he’ll be much in demand.”

“Not just in the presidential [campaign], but in other races around the country,” Price said. “I think we’ll hear from him that he’ll want to campaign with all of us.”

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