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Inside Politics

Convention over, Democrats hit campaign trail

Kerry, Edwards begin 21-state tour


THE MORNING GRIND
VIDEO
Kerry and John kick off a new two-week campaign tour.

CNN's Bill Hemmer talks with two speechwriters about Kerry's address.

John Kerry makes his acceptance speech at the DNC.
Kerry speech (Part 2)
Kerry speech (Part 3)
Kerry speech (Part 4)
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America Votes 2004

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry and running mate Sen. John Edwards kicked off a marathon campaign tour Friday with a rally in Boston, just hours after the finale of the Democratic National Convention, where Kerry accepted his party's presidential nomination.

Despite their late night Thursday, the candidates and their families waved enthusiastically to the crowd of cheering supporters.

"Wasn't I just standing up in front of you a few minutes ago? Where did the night go?" Kerry joked. "I'll tell you, when you're having fun. I'm longing to have my head hit a pillow, ladies and gentlemen."

After the rally, Kerry and Edwards set off on a two-week, 3,500-mile, coast-to-coast trip, dubbed the "Believe in America" tour, that will take them to 21 states and 40 cities. In addition, the Democratic National Committee will launch a new ad campaign on their behalf.

President Bush also is going back on the campaign trail after vacationing at his Texas ranch during the Democratic convention. (Bush campaigning in battleground states)

Kerry said the election was about "American values," which he stressed were more than just words.

""They are the choices you make," he said. "I believe it is unacceptable to have kids shut out of schools because we have made the choice for people who make more than $200,000 a year to get a tax cut, but we don't have the money to leave the school doors open.

"Life is about choices; politics is about choices," Kerry said. " ... Americans are playing by the rules while another group is writing the rules for themselves and leaving the rest of America out. We are going to change that around. Help is on the way for the average person in this country."

Edwards heaped praise on Kerry's acceptance speech, telling the crowd that he hit "a home run ... [that] cleared the Green Monster" of Boston's Fenway Park and "is headed for the White House." (Kerry: 'Help is on the way')

In Thursday's speech, Kerry called the presidential contest "the most important election of our lifetime."

"America can do better, and help is on the way," he said repeatedly.

Kerry said that "wages are falling, health-care costs are rising" under the Bush administration, and then promised steps to reverse those trends. (Key points)

"I will cut middle-class taxes. I will reduce the tax burden on small business. And I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals, who make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in job creation, health care and education."

He also vowed not to privatize Social Security or cut benefits.

With polls showing many Americans have more trust in Bush on national security matters, much of Kerry's speech was devoted to defense and security.

"I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as president," he said after being introduced by former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, a fellow Vietnam veteran who lost both legs and an arm in the war.

"I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response," Kerry vowed. "I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security.

"I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war."

By building a stronger military and strengthening alliances around the world, Kerry said that the United States will be able to tell terrorists: "You will lose, and we will win."

He also said he would add more active duty troops and "end the backdoor draft of National Guard and reservists," referring to the extended tours those troops are serving.

Kerry's address -- the finale of the convention -- was enthusiastically received by the delegates, who interrupted him with more than two dozen standing ovations.

"I called my wife back home and told her, 'I think we found a president,' " said Michael Najarian, a delegate from Binghamton, New York.

Carol Summerlyn, a delegate from Portsmouth, Virginia, pronounced the speech "fantastic."

"I think it's clear we're all unified," she said. "This country is going to change."

Surrounded by veterans and family

It was a family affair for Kerry in his hometown.

Crew mates from his swift boat in Vietnam spoke of his courage in battle.

Jim Rassmann said he wasn't asked to appear at the convention Thursday night but rather volunteered. He said it wasn't because Kerry saved his life during the war, but because he had witnessed his "bravery and leadership under fire."

"Any one of these 12 guys will tell you, in a tight situation, when your whole future -- your whole life -- depends on the decisions of one man, you can count on John Kerry," Rassmann said.

Kerry's daughters Vanessa and Alexandra and stepson Andre Heinz spoke of the qualities the four-term senator possesses that they said will make him a good president.

They also introduced a biographical film on the Democratic presidential nominee, narrated by actor Morgan Freeman and made with the advice of director Steven Spielberg.

Thursday's convention theme, "Stronger at Home, Respected in the World," was stressed in speeches from foreign policy experts, including former presidential hopeful and NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Wesley Clark, and Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Special Report: America Votes 2004)

Biden said he believed history would judge the Bush administration "harshly for the mistakes it has made" and opportunities it has "squandered" by not enlisting the help of U.S. allies.

Clark said he respected Kerry as a fellow soldier who went to war and as a veteran who returned home to fight for peace.

He said, "Anyone who tells you that one political party has a monopoly on the best defense of our nation is committing a fraud on the American people." (Clark: Kerry has moral courage)

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Kerry would "use intelligence to shape policy, not twist intelligence to justify policy."


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