Vice presidential candidate John Edwards (search) on Wednesday sought to assure black supporters that he and John Kerry (search) have "fought for this community our entire lives" — and would continue doing so — on a day devoted to reaching out to the base in the Democratic stronghold of northeast Ohio.

Edwards briefly mentioned the "false, negative attacks" by a veterans' group assailing Kerry's Vietnam war service and again blamed President Bush for being behind the group, a claim the Republican's campaign denies.

However, Edwards spent much of the nearly hourlong event at a C helping troubled young people.

"With this administration, they're completely content to spend $50,000 to house a young person in prison for the rest of their lives," Edwards said. Instead, he said, the country should spend $10,000 to help a person get a job after being released. "How about a little job training? How about a little education for these folks?" he asked.

Edwards said 42 percent of blacks in Ohio don't have health insurance, the high school dropout rate among blacks in the state is 40 percent, and one out of 117 houses are under foreclosure, many because of predatory lending.

Referring to the economically prosperous 1990s when Democrats controlled the White House, Edwards said, "We were lifting people out of poverty, not putting millions of people into poverty."

Brian Jones, a Bush campaign spokesman, called Edwards' claims "false and baseless."

"John Kerry and John Edwards' negativity and pessimism can't change the fact that homeownership is up, the economy is growing and opportunity exists throughout all segments of the population," Jones said.