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Dems rally for Kerry

Presumptive nominee picks up Dean nod


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Kerry is surrounded by fellow Democrats at the unity rally.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was hailed by party leaders Thursday night, following a day in which he picked up key endorsements.

Kerry, who hit the campaign trail after almost a week on vacation, was the star of a Democratic "unity" dinner in Washington where party leaders, including former Presidents Clinton and Carter, rallied the party faithful.

"If people think in this election, if they think about the choices that have been made and the vision John Kerry offers, we win," Clinton said. (Full story)

Earlier, at a rally at George Washington University, Kerry and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean pledged to put their sometimes-bitter primary fight behind them.

"Howard and I understand this election is not about us," Kerry told the cheering crowd.

"It's not about a party. It's about our country. It's about you and your future."

Kerry also picked up the endorsement of another major union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The twin endorsements underscored Kerry's status as the all-but-crowned Democratic nominee.

Dean said he would use his campaign organization -- now rechristened "Democracy for America" -- to boost Kerry's campaign.

"In the end, it is Generation Dean voting for John Kerry for president of the United States that is going to send George Bush back to Texas where he belongs," Dean said.

For his part, Kerry promised to continue the "conversation with America" that Dean began.

And he and Dean both hammered at the Bush administration's reputation for credibility, with Kerry vowing to restore "people's trust that what we say, we mean, and that we mean what we say."

Dean used the same theme in his endorsement, telling the audience, "I know who I trust. I trust John Kerry. And that's who I'm voting for and that's who I'm working for."

Dean's outspoken opposition to the invasion of Iraq and his use of the Internet to rally supporters and donors made him the front-runner in polls before the first Democratic contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But those tactics failed to translate into votes: Back-to-back losses in those contests sent his campaign into a tailspin, and he abandoned his presidential bid in February. (CNN.com Special Report: America Votes 2004)

During the campaign, Dean blasted Kerry as a "Washington insider" who failed to stand up for Democratic principles. But Thursday, he said the two had put the campaign behind them after a meeting earlier this month.

"We're both tough competitors," Dean said. "But there are things in the campaign we talked about, focusing on the things that divide us. Now we're going to talk about the things that we have in common."

Other developments

  • Pledging to create 10 million new jobs in four years, Kerry on Friday will begin to roll out his economic plan for the country in a series of three speeches, his campaign said. (Full story)
  • Kerry's campaign criticized President Bush for joking about the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bush poked fun at the failure of the United States to find any such weapons during the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington on Wednesday night. (Full story) "If George Bush thinks his deceptive rationale for going to war is a laughing matter, then he's even more out of touch than we thought," the Kerry campaign said in a written statement. "Unfortunately for the president, this is not a joke." The statement said more than 550 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq and more than 3,000 others wounded.
  • The daughter of a woman killed in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks asked National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to reconsider her decision not to testify before the panel investigating the attacks. (Full story) Rice and other Bush administration officials have actively disputed former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke's allegation that the White House did not do enough to combat al Qaeda. (Full story)

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