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Inside Politics

Kerry gets Secret Service protection

Edwards also expected to receive security

Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Maryland, left, shows his enthusiasm as Sen. John Edwards is cheered by supporters, during a campaign stop in Largo, Maryland on Friday.
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Maryland, left, shows his enthusiasm as Sen. John Edwards is cheered by supporters, during a campaign stop in Largo, Maryland on Friday.

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(CNN) -- Underscoring the tighter Democratic race for the White House, the Secret Service began providing protection Friday to presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry, and Sen. John Edwards also has applied for the protection, a spokesman for the Secret Service said.

An Edwards aide said the protection has been authorized and that the Secret Service was in discussions with the campaign about when it would start.

Kerry's campaign staff asked the Department of Homeland Security for the protection, and it determined that he qualified, Secret Service spokesman Tom Mazur said.

With victories in 16 of 18 state contests, Kerry, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, with Edwards, a North Carolina senator, his major challenger.

To receive Secret Service protection, a candidate must be campaigning on a national basis, must have a prominent position in national media polls and must have garnered at least 10 percent of the vote in two consecutive primaries or caucuses.

Kerry has garnered at least 27 percent of the vote in every contest so far, while Edwards has collected at least 10 percent in more than a dozen states.

Edwards was on the campaign trail, hitting Georgia, Maryland and New York. He continued to press Kerry to agree to a one-on-one debate with him.

"I think the people of Georgia deserve to hear the debate between John Edwards and John Kerry. Don't you?" he asked a crowd Friday in Savannah, Georgia.

Kerry, who had no campaign appearances scheduled for the day, has refused to commit to such a debate with Edwards.

Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio also remain in the Democratic race, but they are lagging in the polls. Neither has won a primary or caucus.

Candidates to debate

All four men, however, have agreed to participate in a debate Thursday at the University of Southern California sponsored by CNN and the Los Angeles Times.

The debate will be moderated by CNN's Larry King. Janet Clayton and Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times also will question the candidates. The debate will air live from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET.

In his campaign appearances Friday, Edwards pressed his agenda to keep jobs in the United States and aid small businesses.

During a stop at Prince Georges Community College in Largo, Maryland, he said President Bush is only concerned about large corporations.

"This president is completely out of touch," Edwards said. "If you watch what he talks about, when he talks about the economy doing fine, he's talking about the CEOs and Wall Street. He's not talking about Main Street. He doesn't understand what's going on on Main Street."

He proposed offering venture capital to small businesses in distressed communities, offering manufacturers a 10 percent credit for keeping jobs in the United States, and offering another tax credit to help businesses provide health insurance for workers.

Graham as VP?

In another development, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida -- who dropped out of the race last year -- said he would accept the No. 2 spot on the ticket if it were offered.

Following a speech Thursday at the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee, Graham, 67, said he would do what it takes to get a Democrat in the White House.

"I want a Democrat to be elected president. If I can be in whatever way a contributor to that, I'll do it," said the four-term senator, who announced in November he would not run for re-election in Congress.

"And that includes vice president?" one reporter asked.

"Yes," Graham replied.

The former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a strong critic of President Bush's Iraq policy, Graham abandoned his presidential bid in October, saying he didn't have the money or organization to win due to a late start.

Thursday, Kerry won the 13 million-member AFL-CIO, despite his past support for free trade agreements that union leaders blame for the loss of a large number of U.S. jobs. (Full story)

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said Kerry would sign no new trade agreement without provisions that would protect workers and the environment.

In accepting the AFL-CIO's endorsement at a rally in Washington, Kerry mocked Bush's apparent disavowal of his administration's job-creation estimates, saying, "It just doesn't take a lot of fuzzy math to count to zero." (Full story)

Focus on 'Super Tuesday'

The candidates have their eyes on 'Super Tuesday' on March 2, when 10 states hold contests.(CNN.com's interactive look at primary results to date)

Utah holds a primary Tuesday, and Idaho and Hawaii have caucuses then, too. But Kerry and Edwards are focusing on the following week's "Super Tuesday" states in which 1,151 delegates will be up for grabs -- more than half the 2,162 needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. (CNN.com's interactive Election Calendar)

Kerry has racked up 613 delegates to date. Edwards, with a primary win in his native South Carolina, has 192. Before suspending his campaign this week, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean had claimed 202 delegates despite failing to win a single contest. (CNN.com's interactive Delegate Scorecard)


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