Edwards to tout optimism, big themes in convention address
Associated Press Writer
BOSTON (AP) – Testing his legendary Southern courtroom-developed charm on the nation, John Edwards is aiming to infuse John Kerry’s New England convention with youth and energy Wednesday as Democrats prepare to declare them their vice presidential and presidential nominees.
“He’ll be talking both about the big themes of this campaign and optimism searching for a better tomorrow that this nation has always represented,” the North Carolina senator’s wife, Elizabeth, said Wednesday.
Despite Kerry arriving back in his hometown to address the nation Thursday night as the Democrats’ choice to oust President Bush, it’s the other John who got the convention’s top billing Wednesday as Kerry’s running mate.
After two days of challenges to a president they ache to replace, the convention’s 4,350-plus delegates will shout their way through a roll call of states immediately following Edwards’ speech, expected to include a recitation of his contention that Bush has created “two Americas” – one for the rich and one for everyone else.
Early Wednesday, Edwards and his wife went to the convention floor for a microphone check. “Should I just go ahead and give the speech now?” he asked a nearly empty hall.
“It was actually a little less scary than I thought it would be when we got up there on the stage,” his wife said later on CBS-TV’s “The Early Show. “It felt a lot more intimate than you would expect if you were standing on the sidelines watching it, so I felt a lot more at ease.”
Edwards’ speech follows two days in which some of the Democratic Party’s best and brightest have praised Kerry with stories of his service in Vietnam while criticizing Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq.
Kerry planned a dramatic arrival Wednesday in Boston, riding a water taxi across the harbor. On Tuesday, he cited his qualifications to be commander in chief and asserted, “I will and I can fight a more effective war on terror than George Bush is.”
Campaigning in California, Vice President Dick Cheney said both Kerry and Edwards voted yes for war, but against subsequent funding for the troops. “We need a president who will back our troops 100 percent, and that’s exactly what we’ve got in George W. Bush,” the vice president said.
Kerry is even or slightly ahead of Bush in many pre-convention polls. At the same time, a new Washington Post-ABC poll showed that more than half those surveyed said they knew only a little or hardly at all about the Massachusetts senator’s positions on issues.
And after months of sustained GOP television attacks on Kerry, more than 40 percent called him too liberal on most issues.
Two days into the convention, police reported that no protesters had been arrested, despite predictions that there would be thousands. Officials said bomb squads had responded to about 30 calls of unattended or suspicious bags and packages since Sunday.
Republicans, in Boston to counter the Democrats’ anti-Bush rhetoric, ridiculed Kerry for shifting positions on Iraq. They planned to unveil an 11-minute video Wednesday that captures Kerry’s changing positions on Iraq since 2001.
In her first big political speech, the candidate’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, sought to shield him from that accusation, saying his positions on the environment and other issues were just common sense. She took her own jabs at Bush, describing her husband as a fighter who earned three Purple Hearts “the old-fashioned way, by putting his life on the line for his country.”
Bush served stateside during Vietnam; Kerry volunteered for combat.
“No one will defend this nation more vigorously than he will,” Heinz Kerry said of her husband.
Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the aging liberal icon whom Republicans happily link to Kerry, accused Bush of wasting the “enormous goodwill that flowed to America from across the world” after the Sept. 11., 2001, terrorist attacks.
But some of the biggest applause of the night came for Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for Senate from Illinois who described Kerry as a war hero who has long made “tough choices when easier ones were available.”
Without mentioning Bush by name, Obama said the president had failed to level with the public before ordering troops into Iraq.
The youngest speaker at the convention was less hesitant about naming names. Ilana Wexler, a 12-year-old from Oakland, Calif., who founded a group called kidsforkerry.org, took a jab at Cheney for his recent cussing-out of Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor.
“Our vice president deserves a long time out,” the girl said to roars of approval.
Several of Kerry’s former primary foes had their turn at the convention podium. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who stirred emotions early in the campaign when he vowed to represent the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” also drew loud applause.
Edwards, who has an up-from-the-bootstraps story to tell, arrived in Boston on Tuesday afternoon after he and his wife, Elizabeth, visited the grave of their son, Wade, who was killed at age 16 in an automobile accident in 1996.
Born to parents who labored in the mills of his native South Carolina, Edwards became a self-made millionaire after two decades as one of the country’s most successful trial lawyers.
On the Net:
Kerry-Edwards campaign: http://www.johnkerry.com
Bush-Cheney campaign: http://www.georgewbush.com
Democratic National Convention: http://www.dems2004.org