Blasting Bush, Kerry makes it official
Massachusetts Democrat announces candidacy
MOUNT PLEASANT, South Carolina (CNN) -- Saying President Bush is taking America "in the wrong direction," Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts on Tuesday formally announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president.
"This is no ordinary campaign because this is no ordinary time," Kerry said.
Kerry made his official announcement after months on the campaign trail, but at a time when his candidacy is facing a stiff challenge from his Democratic rivals -- particularly former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
The four-term senator picked South Carolina -- a key primary battleground state -- for his speech in which he criticized Bush's handling of the economy and his foreign policy.
Kerry underscored his military credentials -- he served in the Navy during the Vietnam War -- by delivering his speech in front of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. He was joined by crew members of a Navy gunboat he commanded during the that war.
"George Bush's vision does not live up to the America I enlisted in the Navy to defend, the America I have fought for in the Senate -- and the America that I hope to lead as president," he said. "And every day of this campaign, I will challenge George Bush for fundamentally taking our country in the wrong direction. I will tell you what I believe and what we must do for our country -- and I'll show you how together we will defeat George Bush next November."
South Carolina has a February 3 Democratic presidential primary. Kerry has a fight ahead of him for the 2004 Democratic nomination, judging from the latest polls.
A new CNN/USA Today Gallup national survey shows Kerry, 59, has dropped from second to fourth place among registered Democrats since July in the Democrats' nine-candidate field, while his New England rival, Dean, has moved up from fourth to third ranking. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut -- the 2000 vice-presidential nominee -- was the top choice of registered Democrats, according to the poll.
Dean led Kerry in New Hampshire, 38 percent to 17 percent, in a late-August Zogby poll. Kerry led Dean by three points as recently as July.
After his South Carolina announcement, Kerry was headed to Iowa, where precinct caucuses take place in January. After that, he will go to New Hampshire, which has set its primary for January 27, before heading home to Boston and a hometown rally.
In his announcement, Kerry said Bush's foreign policy has failed the country. "He has squandered the goodwill of the world after September 11 and lost the respect and influence we need to make our country safe. We are seeing the peril in Iraq every day."
Kerry said the Bush administration has rejected international allies in Iraq and the United Nations, calling that "a miscalculation of colossal proportions."
He said that two years after the September 11, 2001, attacks, progress hasn't been made in keeping America safe.
"We are not making progress when we are laying off police and the jobs of sky marshals are in jeopardy. If we can open firehouses in Baghdad, then we can keep them open in New York City."
Kerry also took aim at Bush's domestic policies, particularly as they relate to the economy and the environment.
He said 3 million jobs have been lost under the Bush administration in less than three years. "If Americans aren't working, America's not working," he said.
While Kerry said he wants to make "America independent of Mideast oil within the next 10 years," he said Bush's efforts to reduce U.S. reliance on international sources of oil will hurt the environment.
The administration wants to open up part of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling, something Kerry opposes.
Kerry said the administration's embraces a "creed of greed," and he promised to roll back what he called Bush's "lavish" tax breaks for the wealthy. But he also said he supports tax cuts for middle- and lower-income workers.
--CNN Political Editor John Mercurio contributed to this report