BOSTON – Sure, they like John Kerry (search). But some Democratic convention delegates say John Edwards could make the difference when he campaigns in the nation's battleground states this fall.
"It will absolutely not hurt if Kerry comes," said John Hagler, 47, an educator from St. James, Mo. "But the message Edwards has is going to make a significant difference. Edwards really will appeal in Missouri."
Hagler is here as a delegate for the North Carolina senator, but Edwards has fans among the Kerry delegates, too.
"We haven't seen a lot of John Edwards," said Virgel Cain, 58, a Vietnam veteran and small business owner in Cave Creek, Ariz. "I think the voters need to know John Edwards better, and one way to do that is to come and shake hands, talk to folks, show your presence, basically."
Arizona and Missouri are swing states that President Bush won in 2000; this year, they are among several that could determine the margin of victory in the race for the White House.
When Edwards was seeking the presidency earlier this year, he came in second in Missouri, Ohio, Florida and several other battleground states, although in Arizona he was a distant fourth.
Delegates said Edwards has more natural appeal than Kerry among certain groups. For blue-collar Midwesterners, there is his upbringing as the son of a textile mill worker. For rural Americans, there are his plainspoken manner and his farm state home. For a broad range of people, there are his upbeat message and personality — and good looks.
The vice presidential nominee has a rapport with small-town people that reassures them about jobs and the economy said Marcia McGee, 54, a Columbus, Ohio, campaign consultant.
"Because of that, John Edwards will be in Ohio quite a bit, and I think he'll be doing his best to make sure his and Senator Kerry's message reaches people whose minds are opened, who are concerned about jobs and the economy in Ohio, but still want to be able to feel very comfortable with our ticket."
Despite enthusiasm about Edwards' addition to the ticket, political observers are unconvinced he can overcome conventional wisdom that vice presidential nominees don't make much difference.
"That doesn't say the vice presidential candidate makes no difference; it's just not much," said David Rohde, political science professor at Michigan State University. "Maybe Edwards is different. Maybe this election is different. But I don't think so."
Oregon delegate Barbara Smith Warner agreed: "Edwards is a nice addition. But it's really all about Bush and Kerry."
Bush supporters would love it if Edwards set out to woo outstate Missouri and other rural communities, Sen. Kit Bond said Wednesday on a telephone conference call with reporters.
"We'd love to have him talk about his liberal stands," said Bond, R-Mo. "I think while they may find him charming — he would be a pleasant guy to have lunch with — you certainly wouldn't want him making policy for the United States."