John Edwards raised more than $1 million for the Democratic presidential ticket Monday in the Triangle and criticized the Bush administration record on trade, prescription drugs and foreign affairs.
Ending his first solo tour since he was chosen by John Kerry as his vice presidential running mate, Edwards held one of his "front porch" forums in South Durham, fielding questions from supporters.
Jon Seekevich, a 52-year-old Durham nurse, asked Edwards what he thought about Bush's leadership skills. Seekevich referred to a scene in the movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" that shows Bush continuing to read to students at a Florida public school for several minutes after being told of the attack on the World Trade Center.
Edwards did not directly comment on the controversial Michael Moore movie. But he said that even as the world's only superpower, the United States needs the close cooperation of other countries where terrorists operate.
"I think most Americans will see as we get closer and closer to the election that in order for us to right the ship in Iraq and in order for us to go after these terrorists aggressively and stop them before they can do us harm on our own soil, we need a president who understands that we are part of the global community," he said.
"It's important for us to lead. But there is a difference between leading and bullying."
Earlier in the day, Edwards attended a luncheon at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel, where 300 guests paid as much as $27,000 for a meal of fried chicken, barbecue, green beans, potato salad and apple pie. The money will go to the Kerry campaign or the Democratic Party.
The event attracted a cross section of the state's Democratic leadership, including three congressmen, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and former state House Speaker Dan Blue.
Jim Hunt, the former four-term Democratic governor, asked state residents to elect one of their own.
"You get a chance like this, folks, maybe once in a lifetime -- maybe once in a century," Hunt said. "This is our chance."
The fund-raiser was one of the largest in state Democratic history, although it raised much less than the $2.35 million brought in by President Bush two weeks ago in North Raleigh.
Underscoring the importance that the Kerry-Edwards ticket is attaching to North Carolina, the campaign announced that Edwards would barnstorm the state next week before heading to Boston to accept the vice presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention.
Although details were still being worked out, aides said Edwards probably would campaign in all three major media markets -- the Triangle, the Triad and Charlotte -- on Monday and Tuesday.
Asked whether he thought the ticket could win North Carolina, Edwards said: "This is my home. I think North Carolina will be very competitive."
When reminded that no Democratic presidential candidate had carried the state since 1976, he replied, "We haven't had someone from North Carolina on the ticket."
Republicans found irony in his emphasis on his Tar Heel roots.
"North Carolina has seen a lot of John Edwards on television over the past few weeks, but we have barely seen him at all in our state over the past few years," Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory said in a statement released by the Bush campaign. "It is apparent he has little in common with the values of our state."
Continuing a practice he has used across the country in the past week, Edwards held a forum on the front porch of Mayor Bill Bell in the Parkwood section of South Durham. Police and Secret Service agents blocked off part of Huntsman Drive, and neighbors in the upper-middle-class subdivision gawked at the television satellite trucks and the black SUVs of Edwards' motorcade. He sat on a stool as about 40 supporters sat on folding chairs on the lawn, throwing soft-edged questions at him.
Edwards criticized the Bush administration's trade policies, suggesting they have not done enough to protect U.S. workers.
"The Bush administration has actually said the outsourcing of millions of jobs over the next decade is good for the American economy," he said. "Now, I don't know what planet these people live on. But losing millions of jobs is not good for the American economy."
Edwards also said that the Bush-backed prescription drug program pushed through Congress was "full of holes." He said millions of seniors will be worse off than before.
Among those impressed was Monica Wilson, 31, a Durham lawyer, who said Edwards' answers seemed genuine. "I thought his responses were very skillful," she said.
Edwards did not take questions from print reporters. But in Bell's living room, he gave five remote interviews to television stations in places that he or Kerry plans to visit before the convention, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and Virginia.
Later in Bell's basement, he gave three-minute interviews to four Triangle TV stations.
Staff writer Rob Christensen can be reached at 829-4532 or email@example.com.