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I know the title alone just angered people left and right of the great political divide. But here’s the way I see it.

John Edwards was born in South Carolina and grew up in North Carolina. His dad worked in the textile mills and his mother ran a shop and worked at the post office.

Not the elitist childhood young George W. Bush had (despite his “just one of the guys” persona.) Bush was born in New Haven, CT. The family moved to Texas when W was 2, so his dad could get into the oil business. Which he did big time.

And while young W. was avoiding his military service and building a less than stellar big business career on his daddy’s money and influence, John Edwards was making a name for himself fighting for the rights of the average family against big business – mainly insurance companies.

And then when he became a senator, he worked on serious issues like “quality health care, better schools, protecting civil liberties, preserving the environment, saving Social Security and Medicare, and reforming the ways campaigns are financed.

As a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Edwards worked tirelessly for a strong national defense and to strengthen the security of our homeland. He authored key pieces of legislation on cyber, bio, and port security.”

This is a man who cares deeply about the people of this country and not just about pushing through an agenda that benefits big business and a religious right that holds his IOUs. This is a man with passion and dedication to making this country better for everyone – not just big business and special interests.

Edwards is particularly focused on poverty, probably because of the way he grew up. In contrast, our President, who never knew the fear and hopelessness that comes with poverty, has helped drain our coffers with an ill-conceived and shamefully executed war and unnecessary tax cuts. He’s leading us into a fiscal nightmare that needs serious attention now. But what we get instead are half-hearted proposals and his “I’m one of you” smile that comforts an uneasy citizenry less and less. As Bush senior probably would say about the way his son has handled our future: “Wasn’t prudent.”

So now to my basic premise. Like George W. Bush, John Edwards is affable and has a way that wins people over. And like W, Edwards conveys a simple nature that sometimes belies a more complex under-core. But the comparison stops there, since Edwards’s under-core is about truly making a difference for the average person and Bush the Younger is all about big business (especially the oil industry), encroaching on personal rights and liberties, and unraveling the safety net we’ve worked so hard to create.

But what about the issue of gravitas? Does Edwards have it? We know Bush didn’t (he also didn’t have much experience), so they gave him Cheney. And that’s why we add Bill Richardson to the ticket.

Richardson has gravitas all over the place. Not that John Edwards doesn’t in fact possess great substance, but his almost-too-handsome image to some extent undercuts the truth of his very substantial record and skills. By adding Richardson (the anti-Cheney) we have a team that is solid on all fronts, since Richardson himself is equally capable of being President.

From a post on a blog called Area Postrema: Bill Richardson on Leno Last Night “He is by far the most qualified of all the democratic candidates in the race up to date; having been a congressman, Ambassador to the UN, Secretary of Energy, and the current Governor of New Mexico.”

For me they’re a dream team. Edwards – up from poverty. Self-made, not a product of daddy’s cronies. Richardson – a tough negotiator and one of the most qualified people to help us tackle the seemingly impossible environmental issues we’re facing.

OK. So now let’s talk about THE HAIRCUT. Edwards was recently attacked for that infamous $400 haircut (which he himself paid for). That attack was most likely orchestrated to minimize him and wrap him into an easy sound-byte. But the facts just don’t fit. He’s not some spoiled product of a wealthy daddy like Bush the Younger – who has plunged us into unforgivable national debt. He’s a self-made man who spent $400 to pay someone to travel to him and prepare him for a televised appearance.

Let’s get real – the top candidates all get done up for media appearances. In fact, some politicians travel with people on salary to do this. Edwards doesn’t. And other politicians spend lots of money on other stuff we could scrutinize to death, but someone like Edwards wouldn’t attack back that way. Instead he simply forged ahead with his message and mission, keeping his eye on what needs to be done now – like getting us out of Iraq. The whole haircut thing was about nothing. But in today’s political world, we wind up talking about stuff like this while our country is going up in economic and political smoke!

So after much thought, I’ve decided that Edwards-Richardson is our best hope for the future of this country and a citizenry that honestly feels overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. Could Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama do a better job than our current president? For sure. I just think Hillary Clinton’s presidency, although I am glad she’s running, would (unfortunately) result in a lot of Republicans (aided by the dirty tricks squad) focusing on their old Clinton anger rather than rolling up their sleeves and doing the work that needs to be done. And while I am a huge fan of Barack Obama and think that in another 4-8 years he could be unstoppable, right now I think he still needs more seasoning on both a national and international level – at least such that resonates in the eyes of the average voter.

And so, for me, I am hoping for Edwards-Richardson in 2008. They have the kind of balanced appeal that Bush-Cheney rode home to victory (election tampering aside), but in contrast they have a positive message and the ability to get things done that add to our country’s strength rather than undermining it at every turn.

I would be proud to vote for either Edwards or Richardson, but for the strongest ticket possible, I believe Edwards-Richardson is the winning ticket. I think Edwards’s particular passion and charm has the best chance of helping unite us in a way maybe the other candidates couldn’t do, allowing us to finally focus on getting out of all these messes we’re in. And coupled with Richardson, that’s a big one-two punch.

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Note: I didn’t mention Elizabeth Edwards in the main piece, but I’ve heard her speak and she is a major contribution to her husband’s campaign. Bright, articulate (yes, I used the word), and imbued with the same passion and dedication of her husband. They met in law school and were married in 1977 and you can see the love is still going strong. I wish her well in her fight against cancer. And I hope that no one refuses to vote for Edwards because of what his wife is going through. That would go against everything they believe in and stand for. Me too.