The rise and fall of John Edwards

Charlotte ObserverAugust 10, 2008 

When veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum first met John Edwards in 1997, he saw in the accomplished trial lawyer a raw political talent.

"I called my partners and said. 'I think I just met a future president of the United States,' " Shrum recalls.

A year later, at 45, Edwards was elected to the U.S. Senate, launching a trajectory that in 2000 put him on the short list of Al Gore's vice presidential candidates. By 2001, he'd begun planning what would be the first of two presidential campaigns and, in 2004, ran for vice president with John Kerry.

It was as if he were making up for lost time.

"He always was in a hurry,” says political analyst Charlie Cook. "That was sort of the hallmark of his career."

Edwards' rise was sparked in part by biography.

The self-described "son of a millworker" sought to appeal to middle-class voters through the narrative of his working-class roots and a family bonded by tragedy, including the death of a teenage son and wife Elizabeth's diagnosis of breast cancer.

Edwards' fall, heralded by tabloid headlines and punctuated by Friday's admission of infidelity, was propelled by another narrative.

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