Sunday, February 29, 2004

Support Edwards in the primary


Historically, the Enquirer has seldom endorsed candidates in a presidential primary, but this year, more than most, the issues facing the nation demand a thorough debate. We believe the Democrat best able to carry on that debate with the Republican incumbent is Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

The economy, the loss of jobs to workers in other countries, the war in Iraq and the continuing threat of terrorism are issues that the president will be dealing with during the coming term. Edwards has shown a willingness to talk about those issues with candor and consistency.

His discussions of the war and the nation's military responsibilities do not dwell on the generally irrelevant issue of what he was doing in the 1960s. That contrasts with the bickering over the Vietnam era between Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Edwards' chief rival for the nomination, and President Bush.

The issues of the economy and jobs are of particular concern in Ohio, where 150,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last three years. While we disagree with Edwards' stance that leans away from free trade, we are pleased that a candidate for the presidency is willing to talk directly about an issue so vital to our state.

Critics say Edwards has been in the Senate only five years and lacks foreign policy experience. We don't hold a lack of Washington indoctrination against anyone, and Edwards serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee. That gives him more foreign policy experience than four of the last five presidents had when they took office.

While Edwards and Kerry now are the chief contenders for their party's nomination, several other names will appear on Tuesday's Democratic ballot in Ohio. Joseph Lieberman, Wesley Clark and Howard Dean have dropped out of the primary process, but their names remain. Perennial fringe candidate Lyndon LaRouche also is on the ballot, as is U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the former mayor of Cleveland. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who remains a candidate nationally, never got on the Ohio ballot.

Kerry holds a substantial lead in the delegate count, but Edwards has shown growing strength in recent contests. The more exposure he gets, the more people seem to like him. It remains to be seen whether his positions are what we ultimately will want in a president. But his open directness is exactly what we want in a candidate.

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