Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - In declaring his candidacy for his party's 2004 presidential nomination Thursday, North Carolina Democratic Sen. John Edwards responded to political analysts who said Democrats lost the Senate in November because they did not draw a clear distinction between themselves and Republicans.
"If I am the nominee of the Democratic Party in 2004, my job will be to present the American people with a clear choice, a different choice, an alternative vision for America," Edwards said.
Based on his voting record, as scored by various conservative organizations, that task should be fairly easy to accomplish.
The American Conservative Union (ACU) rated Edwards 16 out of a possible 100 for 2001 and 12 of 100 for 2000, with a lifetime rating of 12.
"The only reason he's that high is because he makes some votes on defense matters necessary to keep himself from being driven out of North Carolina on a rail," David Keene, chairman of ACU, told CNSNews.com, "because you have heavy defense installations and spending in that state."
Edwards voted with the ACU only four times, including votes to increase defense spending and in support of a bankruptcy overhaul bill.
But the North Carolina Democrat voted against the Bush tax cuts, including capital gains and marriage penalty tax cuts.
Edwards opposed school vouchers and the confirmation of Attorney General John Ashcroft, all of which ACU supported. He supported the International Criminal Court, needle exchange programs for the District of Columbia, and strike privileges for public safety employees, all of which ACU opposed.
Right to Life Issues
Of the 12 pieces of legislation scored by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) since he was elected in 1998, Edwards voted in opposition to NRLC's position 100 percent of the time.
The senator voted against a ban on abortions at U.S. military facilities, against a ban on the use of taxpayer-funded insurance policies to pay for federal employees' abortions, and against a proposed ban on partial-birth abortions.
He supported a resolution supporting the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion during all nine months of pregnancy, and the McCain-Feingold campaign finance limitations, which NRLC has sued to overturn on First Amendment grounds.
The Right to Keep and Bear Arms
On Second Amendment issues, Edwards voted with the anti-gun Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence 77 percent of the time.
He strayed only twice, voting to block $15 million for a federal program to buy guns from law-abiding citizens in public housing complexes and against a federal ban on selling personally owned firearms with Internet classified advertising.
Edwards supported the Brady Campaign's efforts to impose federal background checks on gun sales between private individuals, including family members, at gun shows and a bill to define a "gun show" as any event or gathering "at which two or more persons are offering or exhibiting one or more firearms for sale or transfer," even including firearms given as gifts to family members.
The senator supported holding gun show organizers liable for the actions of criminals using firearms purchased at their shows and mandating the sale of gun safes or locks with each firearm sold at a gun show.
Edwards also voted for anti-gun Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) ban on the importation of so-called "high-capacity feeding devices," magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.
Edwards, who has held no other political office and spent 20 years as a personal injury trial lawyer before entering politics, said he is not ashamed of his record.
"I am absolutely happy to be judged on the basis of my ideas," he said, "and on the basis of my vision for where this country needs to go."
Keene believes Edwards is trying to run a campaign similar to that of his 1998 Senate campaign. Edwards told voters in eastern North Carolina that he would probably vote with ultra-conservative Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) "80 to 90 percent of the time."
"When he ran for the Senate, he could get away with saying what he said because there was no voting record to pin him down with," Keene explained. "Now, he's got a voting record."
Efforts by Edwards' handlers to paint him as a "New Democrat" will fail, Keene predicted, based solely on Edwards' record.
"He's proven since he got to the Senate that he is a liberal. He's not a 'new Southern Democrat,'" Keene said. "He's not all that much different from [Sen.] John Kerry [D-Mass.] or the rest of the people appealing to the left-wing core of the Democratic Party."
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