Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) and running mate John Edwards (search) have had a lengthy discussion about the "expansive" role Edwards would play in a Kerry administration and see Al Gore (search) in the Clinton years as their model.

"We first talked about the Clinton-Gore model, where constant consultation, advice, friendship and the vice president being responsible for specific areas," Edwards said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Using that as a model and building on it and making the partnership even more expansive."

The talks haven't yet led to specific areas where Edwards would have responsibility.

"It's evolving as you would expect, since it's only been a week," he said.

Edwards conceded he's a bit stunned after a whirlwind first week on the Democratic ticket.

"Yeah, I'm surprised," he said. "Every stage of my life has been a surprise. When I was little I didn't know if I'd be able to go to college. To be in this place is just a remarkable thing."

Edwards chose Iowa as his first solo campaign trip since being picked for the ticket, and his backers said his small-town roots give him great appeal in the crucial swing Midwest.

"I know first hand from all the time I spent here in Iowa campaigning, and in some subsequent states, Wisconsin and other places, that having grown up in a rural area of North Carolina and have a real sense of what the values are and what people care about in those areas," he said. "It's personal for me. I care about them and they feel it."

With Democrats running strong on both coasts and Republicans holding a virtual lock on the South, the election may be settled in the Midwest, Edwards said.

"The Midwest is critical, a large percentage of the battleground states are in the Midwest and in a lot of these Midwestern states the places where we have to fight hard are in the rural areas, smaller towns and smaller communities," he said.