History is on Edwards' side. In the past 40 years, every Democratic president has been a southerner, from Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton.

The North Carolina senator is seen as a good-looking populist who oozes southern charm and paints himself as "a champion for regular people every single day".

The son of a mill worker, Edwards has made much of the rags-to-riches story of his life. This only partially disguises the fact that the story of his political life is unusually short.

But though his Democrat centrist approach and pro-worker tendencies gives him broad appeal, others say he is too inexperienced – especially on matters such as defence and foreign policy.

That perception helped end his otherwise respectable campaign to win the Democrat presidential nomination. But his populist charm was recognised with his selection as John Kerry's running mate.

Successful lawyer

John Reid Edwards was born on 10 June 1953 in South Carolina to a working class family, but was raised in North Carolina. He graduated with a law degree from the University of North Carolina in 1977 and went on to make millions as a personal injury lawyer.

John Edwards

Age: 49
Religion: Methodist
Spouse: Elizabeth Edwards
Current post: Senator, North Carolina (1999-present)
Military record: None. Too young for Vietnam

After winning a spectacular $25 million verdict in an accident trial in 1997 - the largest in North Carolina's history – Edwards turned his attention to politics.

Portraying himself as a fighter for the ordinary American, Edwards entered politics in 1998 and was elected to the national Senate the following year.

Pursuing a centrist Democrat position on most issues, Edwards has campaigned prominently for patients' rights and benefits for workers.

He has also been improving his defence and foreign policy knowledge while serving on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Political agenda

Edwards fought his presidential nomination campaign by calling for changes to the controversial Bush tax cuts: freezing them for high earners and keeping those aimed at middle and low incomes. He wants to extend healthcare coverage, especially for children.

Liberal on abortion, he also favours tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars. And the senator has urged the FBI to hand over domestic intelligence gathering to a new separate agency.

Iraq war

Edwards backed Bush's drive to oust Saddam Hussein, saying before the invasion that if the United Nations did not disarm the Iraqi president, the US and its allies should do the job.

However, he has continued to stress wider multinational involvement, an implicit criticism of Bush's handling of the war.

Foreign affairs

Edwards has favoured a bigger role for NATO, suggesting the transatlantic alliance could supplement US peacekeeping forces around the world.

Edwards (L) has added some
stylish colour to Kerry's bid

He has also called for a greater effort to end human rights abuses in China, Cuba and North Korea.

Edwards speaks of Israel as a vital ally, but believes the Bush administration should have done more to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together.

He says the US should be less dependent on Middle East oil. He also says Washington should pressure Syria and Saudia Arabia over alleged support for extremist groups.

Supporters say

"John Edwards is one of those rare, naturally gifted politicians who doesn’t need a long record of public service to inspire confidence in his abilities."
- Des Moines Register

Critics say

"Edwards lacks the accomplishments and demonstrated
leadership needed to be president."
- column in the Washington Post

The youthful North Carolina senator has been described as a political novice, especially on issues such as defence and foreign policy. But his strong communication skills have added some stylish colour to Kerry's presidential challenge.