- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 13, 2004

Sen. John Edwards, the smooth-talking populist who emerged from the nominating campaign as John Kerry’s chief rival, is favored among registered voters to be the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, according to a new Associated Press poll.

But the North Carolina senator’s name on the ticket would not automatically boost Democrats’ prospects.

A Kerry-Edwards pairing ties with the Republican tandem of Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, which is no better than Mr. Kerry’s current showing in head-to-head matchups against Mr. Bush, according to the AP poll conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

Democratic strategists cautioned against reading too much into any poll before Mr. Kerry selects a running mate.

“Polling information on potential running mates is soft and unreliable because it’s all about name identification, and [is] hypothetical,” said Doug Sosnik, a top adviser in the Clinton White House. “Eventually, we’ll have a campaign when people will get to know them. Right now, it’s just mush.”

The AP poll showed that more than one-third of registered voters — 36 percent — said they would most like to see Mr. Kerry choose Mr. Edwards. Among Democrats surveyed, Mr. Edwards fared even better: 43 percent preferred him over three other Democrats — Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark, and Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa.

The AP-Ipsos poll of 788 registered voters had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

In hypothetical matchups against the Republican ticket:

• Kerry-Edwards had 47 percent to 44 percent for Bush-Cheney.

• Bush-Cheney had 47 percent to 45 percent for Kerry-Gephardt.

• Bush-Cheney had 47 percent to 43 percent for Kerry-Vilsack and for Kerry-Clark.

Mr. Kerry is expected to announce his choice next month.

Among others mentioned as potential Kerry running mates are Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and Evan Bayh of Indiana; former Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska; and Govs. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Mark R. Warner of Virginia, Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania.

Democrats say there may be a dark horse under consideration, perhaps a Republican. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has been mentioned as a potential pick. Sen. John McCain of Arizona has rejected Mr. Kerry’s overtures.

As for the Republican ticket, 28 percent of party voters surveyed thought Mr. Bush should pick someone other than Mr. Cheney as his running mate. The margin of sampling error for this subgroup was plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

Back on the campaign trail after a week off, yesterday Mr. Kerry used the Democratic radio address to challenge the Bush administration to relax restrictions on stem-cell research to pursue the potential of finding cures for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Ethical questions raised by the use of human embryos can be resolved through “good will and good sense,” he said.

Mr. Kerry, the Democrats’ presumed candidate to face Mr. Bush in November, cited Nancy Reagan’s efforts to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s, which debilitated her husband, former President Ronald Reagan, for at least a decade before his death June 5.

“She told the world that Alzheimer’s had taken her own husband to a distant place, and then she stood up to help find a breakthrough that someday will spare other husbands, wives, children and parents from the same kind of heartache,” Mr. Kerry said in the Democrats’ weekly radio address.

He spoke after an emotionally stirring week during which the nation honored and buried the former president.

“Stem cells have the power to slow the loss of a grandmother’s memory, calm the hand of an uncle with Parkinson’s, save a child from a lifetime of daily insulin shots or permanently lift a best friend from his wheelchair,” the Massachusetts senator said.

Stem cells from human embryos can form all types of cells, and scientists contend they could be used one day to replace cells damaged from such conditions as diabetes, spinal cord injury or Parkinson’s disease.

Mr. Bush signed an executive order in August 2001 that authorized federal financing of stem-cell research to some 78 embryonic stem-cell lines then in existence.

Stem cells typically are taken from days-old human embryos, then grown in a laboratory into lines or colonies. Because the embryos are destroyed when cells are extracted, the process is opposed by some who liken it to abortion.

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