Kennedy’s announcement, made in a press release, came as a surprise. It’s widely believed the senator would have been a formidable opponent as Republicans try to unseat the Deep South's only Democratic governor. Kennedy matches Edwards in popularity, and has considerable fundraising skills needed to mount a successful campaign. But Kennedy, age 67, has quickly raised his profile in the nation’s capitol , giving him more of a footing in Congress than was expected. Governor Edwards, age 52, is also popular: A recent poll showed both men with approval ratings around 60 percent. Kennedy’s announcement leaves the Republicans without a well-known challenger to Edwards less than a year away from election day.