Kerry, Edwards Plan Visit to North Carolina

North Carolina Democrats were pumped up Friday for a planned weekend visit by the Democratic presidential ticket of John Kerry (search) and John Edwards (search).

"I think it's just wonderful," North Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Barbara Allen said Friday. "I have never seen such energy, especially among the young people. They are just enamored."

Kerry and his newly named running mate, the first-term U.S. senator who grew up in the small town of Robbins and has a home in Raleigh, were to attend a "Welcome Home" rally Saturday afternoon in the state capital, at the campus of North Carolina State University.

Allen said adding Edwards to the Democratic ticket has transformed North Carolina from a Republican lock to a pivotal state in the November election.

"I think it brings us into play," she said. "We're now a battleground state. The fact that Bush came here this week shows he's concerned."

President Bush attended a fund-raiser Wednesday in Raleigh, where he criticized Edwards' role in holding up several of his judicial appointments. During the visit, the president said he is not worried that Edwards will help Kerry make inroads in the South in the election.

On Friday, the Bush-Cheney campaign (search) put Charlotte's Republican mayor, Pat McCrory on a conference call to question Edwards' qualifications as a vice-presidential choice and a North Carolinian.

"A lot of people at the national level are asking, `Who is John Edwards?"' said McCrory, the five-term mayor of the state's largest city. "Frankly, we're still asking that same question here in North Carolina.

"Since he was elected, we have not seen him," McCrory said. "We feel we've been a one-senator state since he has been elected."

Since Kerry named Edwards, his former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, as his vice presidential selection on Tuesday, the pair have been barnstorming in battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.

They are scheduled to arrive at Raleigh-Durham International Airport at 3 p.m. Saturday, where they are to be greeted by area military veterans. From there, Kerry and Edwards are to attend the 4:30 p.m. campus rally.

The two also are expected to attend church services in North Carolina on Sunday, but no official schedule has been released at midday Friday

McCrory, who frequently touts close ties to the Bush Administration, charged that Edwards lacks foreign policy experience during a 20-minute conference call with reporters.

"We are amazed be was even being considered for vice president," he said. "He has no leadership credentials."

Allen disputed that.

"I think you can see the things (Edwards) has done on the Senate Intelligence Committee (search)," she said. "He has more experience than Bush had when he went in as president. And he has done a lot of things for North Carolina. He has worked for North Carolina."

Allen also scoffed at a McCrory prediction that Edwards will not boost Democratic voting in local or statewide races here.

The party chairwoman said she believes Edwards will boost the re-election effort of Democratic Gov. Mike Easley (search) and the hopes of election of Erskine Bowles, the presumptive Democratic nominee to fill the U.S. Senate seat Edwards is vacating.

"Mike (Easley) always says he'd like someone to run with," she said. "We believe Mike and Erskine are doing very well."