Byline: Brian A. DeBose, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Sen. John Kerry bolstered his campaign by picking Sen. John Edwards as his running mate, according to top black lawmakers who say he has energized the black community behind the Democratic presidential ticket.
"No doubt about it," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). "More so than anyone, [Mr. Edwards] is able to excite broad cross-sections of people with regard to his message of building one America."
Mr. Cummings said Mr. Edwards' Southern roots and charm, working-class upbringing and his description of two Americas - one for the wealthy and one for everyone else - attracted support from blacks nationwide when the North Carolina senator made his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in the past year.
Mr. Cummings originally endorsed former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean before supporting Mr. Kerry, of Massachusetts. But when Mr. Kerry surged ahead of the Democratic pack, the CBC was not unified behind him, and blacks didn't immediately embrace his candidacy.
In the 2000 election, 90 percent of blacks voted for Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic candidate for president, with just 8 percent voting for then-Gov. George Bush, the Republican candidate.
In February, Mr. Edwards passed the first electoral test of black voters by winning South Carolina, his native state, with 45 percent of the primary vote in - a state where nearly half of the Democratic voters are black.
Even after Mr. Kerry swept the remaining states - except Oklahoma, where retired Gen. Wesley Clark prevailed - members of the CBC and black political analysts continued to be skeptical.
In May, University of Maryland political science professor Ronald Walters, a political adviser to the Rev. Jesse Jackson in his 1984 presidential bid, criticized Mr. Kerry for not having a diverse enough staff, especially in the upper tier of his political advisers.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Illinois Democrat, told the Associated Press in April that the lack of diversity in Mr. Kerry's inner circle could "dampen voter enthusiasm" and was a problem that should be "quickly remedied."
Mr. Cummings and the Kerry campaign said the criticism was unfair, but the campaign immediately began seeking qualified blacks to fill communications slots, an …