John Edwards The Tough Guy

Dan Rather spoke with the Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth.

John Edwards got the job by running hard, but running second.

Dan Rather: Did you ever think you'd be here? People shouting "John Edwards -- the next vice president?"

John Edwards: No of course not. I never thought growing up in a little country town in North Carolina -- think I'd be here? Of course I didn't.

Dan Rather: You prepare for this by looking at something -- speech notes or you just wing it?

John Edwards: Most of it's in my head.

Known as a brilliant trial lawyer, elected to the U.S. Senate on his first try for political office, John Edwards is now face to face with voters who know little about him.

Dan Rather: What's the one thing you suspect people don't know about you that you want them to know about you?

John Edwards: The toughness inside me. And I think that they've seen enough of me to know that I'm optimistic and hopeful. It's in my nature. But what's hard to see is the toughness that's there. I mean, I -- I have fought my whole life, Dan. I know how tough I can be.

With his wife Elizabeth and two young children out front with him, Edwards is a sunny presence. But the whole family knows there's a tough battle ahead.

Dan Rather: What are the big differences between you and Vice President Cheney?

John Edwards: Oh, I think we have a different vision of the world. I think the Vice President has shown through his own actions during his administration -- that -- that these alliances, America being strong but being engaged with the rest of the world in a positive way, so that we're not doing things alone -- I think those things are -- are not very important to the Vice President based on what I've seen.

Elizabeth Edwards: I think that one of the big differences is that -- John hasn't -- he -- he still believes that the best way to accomplish something is being respectful to the people with whom you disagree.

Dan Rather: Well, do you or do you not mean to suggest that Vice President Cheney doesn't always do that?

Elizabeth Edwards: I -- I -- 'course, Vice President Cheney -- in a position to speak for himself. But I think that certainly, the recent news stories suggest that he doesn't always behave that way. I don't think it's productive.

Dan Rather: Something specific in your mind about that?

Elizabeth Edwards: No, I -- I -- (Laughs)

John Edwards: Good try. (Laughter)

Elizabeth and John Edwards are learning to take on questions under a national spotlight -- and still keep their sense of humor.

Elizabeth Edwards to John Edwards: If you weren't running for Vice President, what would you be doing?

John Edwards: I'd be taking care of your children. (Laughter) Our children, our children!!!

Dan Rather: The criticism is -- yes, he's honest. Yes, he's filled with hope. Yes, he's filled with optimism. But he's still just a little too light to be Vice President, particularly when it comes to foreign affairs.

John Edwards: Not true. Not true. You know, it's not the length of somebody's resume, political resume. It's the strength of their vision and the strength of their character that tells you whether they're ready to lead. And I am ready to lead.