Two on Democratic Ticket Have Similar Records
Tax Cuts Opposed, Patriot Act Backed; Trade May Be Issue
By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 7, 2004; Page A12
Their political résumés vary greatly in length, they hail from regions that consider one another foreign, and their personalities could hardly be confused.
When it comes to public policy, however, there is limited daylight between John F. Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards. A review of the pair's Senate records shows agreement on most major issues, and few serious fissures emerged during the Democratic primaries before Edwards ended his unsuccessful bid for the presidential nomination.
"There's no 'voodoo economics' to adjust to, of any sort," said Thomas E. Mann, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, referring to George H.W. Bush's criticism of Ronald Reagan's economic policies before he joined Reagan on the Republican ticket in 1980.
"They have worked on different issues, but their ideology and voting records are quite similar," Mann said of Kerry and Edwards.
And for Republicans that means a liberal ticket; they have repeatedly tried to paint Kerry as a "Massachusetts liberal." Whatever the labels, there are ample issues on which the upbeat, first-term senator from North Carolina and the more earnest, fourth-term senator from Massachusetts share ground.
As senators, Edwards and Kerry voted against President Bill Clinton's removal after his House impeachment and against President Bush's tax cuts.
Both voted for the USA Patriot Act but later voiced reservations about the discretion it gave Attorney General John D. Ashcroft. Both opposed opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, and both supported patient-protection legislation co-sponsored by Edwards and Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
An analysis published in February by the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., showed that Edwards and Kerry voted identically 91 percent of the time on the 1,166 recorded votes for which both were present since 1999, when Edwards became a senator.
The overlap in outlooks was also noticeable on the campaign trail during the Democratic primaries. The similarities arguably handicapped Edwards as he searched for ways to distinguish himself from Kerry after other candidates started exiting the race.
Kerry kept racking up primary victories. Edwards tried to slow his momentum by suggesting differences on trade and other issues -- but found little with which to work.
At one point, Edwards chided Kerry for "some inconsistency" in his views on Iraq. But the two senators' voting records and statements on the war had been markedly similar.
Both voted in the fall of 2002 to authorize the use of force, which drew heavy criticism during the primaries from former Vermont governor Howard Dean, another Democratic rival, and flak from party activists.
Edwards and Kerry later refused to support a request from Bush for an additional $87 billion to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both senators said their intent was to signal Bush that they disapproved of the way he was handling the war's aftermath.
On the campaign trail, both candidates offered similar prescriptions for Iraq's transition to sovereignty, calling for more international involvement and on ceding more decision-making authorities to allies.
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