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Switching sides, Iacocca endorses Kerry

'Our country needs a change'


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SAN JOSE, California (CNN) -- Former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, who backed President Bush four years ago, switched sides and endorsed Democratic Sen. John Kerry for president Thursday.

"I'm here today because our country needs a change in leadership," Iacocca said during an appearance with Kerry. "We need a leader who is really dedicated to creating millions of high-paying jobs all across the country."

Iacocca, a self-described independent, stumped for Bush in Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2000. He also appeared in a statewide Republican television ad in Michigan, warning voters that "Al Gore's extreme ideas about cars could cost a lot of Michigan families their jobs."

But Thursday, Iacocca said he is changing sides because he was attracted to Kerry's economic plan, including his job creation proposals. He also said the presumptive Democratic nominee both understands change and will "level" with the American people about how to adapt to that change.

Kerry called Iacocca "a man of common sense -- a CEO of common sense -- and I am proud to have his counsel and his support."

"There are few men more respected, not just in corporate America but in all of America, than Lee Iacocca," Kerry said.

According to a Kerry source, the campaign has been buoyed by Iacocca's support and "thinks it's a signal of things to come in demonstrating Kerry's bipartisan appeal."

Kerry himself frequently highlights his work with Republicans. During a stroll along the Atlantic City, New Jersey, boardwalk last week, he chatted briefly with a New Jersey voter promising her that he would be releasing a list of GOP supporters "soon."

Iacocca openly criticized former President Reagan in the mid-1980s for growing budget deficits, saying government spending was "getting out of hand" -- a criticism Kerry frequently levels at Bush.

In his appearance with Iacocca, Kerry unveiled a plan to bolster the high-tech industry, including increasing government funding for university research and math and science education.

The $30 billion plan, which also calls for expanding broadband networks and promoting information technology, would be paid for by accelerating the implementation of digital television, for which money would be raised through public auctions of the broadcast spectrum.

CNN's Sasha Johnson contributed to this report.


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