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Kerry readies crucial acceptance speech to faithful
Updated: 2004-07-30 01:14

Democrats readied a grand celebration on Thursday for new presidential nominee John Kerry, who will deliver a crucial acceptance speech designed to introduce him to voters and spark some bounce in the polls.

The prime-time, televised address by Kerry, who was formally nominated for the White House shortly before midnight on Wednesday, will give the Massachusetts senator his biggest national audience until he takes on President Bush in debate in late September.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry raises his fist as he arrives for a rally at the Charlestown Naval Yard in Boston, July 28, 2004. [Reuters]
The speech will frame many of the issues Kerry and running mate John Edwards will stress in their November election battle with Bush, including the war in Iraq, health care, the economy and the war on terror.

It also will give Kerry plenty of opportunity to acquaint voters with his life story and military history, a major goal of the four-day Democratic National Convention that has featured a string of events with Kerry's friends, fellow veterans and the party's brightest stars.

Conventions are often the first time the general public tunes into a presidential race and polls show many Americans are still unfamiliar with Kerry, a four-term senator, decorated Vietnam War veteran and former prosecutor.

Democratic leaders are focused on reassuring the nation it would be as safe or safer under Kerry and that his stewardship would better relieve economic insecurity, The Washington Post said. "But only Mr. Kerry can close the sale, and his first objective tonight will be to convince voters that he is a credible potential commander in chief," it said in an editorial.


Kerry's daughters, Alexandra and Vanessa, will address the convention before their father, along with former Army Green Beret Jim Rassman, whose life was saved by Kerry during a Vietnam War firefight.

"I think the key thing that we are going to try to do is we are going to share stories and we are going to share I think a little bit about why we are so close with our father, because I think it is unusual," Vanessa Kerry told NBC's Today show.

Several of Kerry's former Navy crewmates, who joined him on a trip across Boston Harbor via water taxi on Wednesday as he arrived in town, also will speak.

Kerry will be introduced by former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, a frequent companion for Kerry on the campaign trail and a fellow Vietnam War veteran who lost three limbs during the war. Cleland lost his 2002 re-election after a bitter campaign in which Republicans questioned his patriotism.

Edwards delivered his own speech to the convention on Wednesday night, extolling Kerry's values and decisive leadership and promising struggling Americans that "hope is on the way."

"I thought John Edwards was great last night. I thought he did just what he had to do," Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman, who ran as Al Gore's vice presidential choice in the last election where they lost to Bush, told "Fox & Friends."

Edwards, a first-term senator from North Carolina, will visit the delegation from his home state on Thursday morning and stop by several other delegation meetings afterward.


Kerry has been working on his speech for weeks and aides said he was still tinkering with it in recent days. He denied in a recent television interview his performance would make or break his campaign, saying the fall debates with Bush could have more impact.

Kerry hopes his four days in the spotlight provide a measurable surge in public approval, known as "bounce," which in the past has often given nominees a double-digit boost in the polls.

Republicans have tried to raise expectations for Kerry, predicting a 15-point gain for him after the convention. Democrats say the closely divided electorate and relatively small number of undecided voters made a big bounce unlikely.

Kerry and Edwards will hit the road together on Friday, leaving Boston by bus after an early morning kickoff rally. They will head to Pennsylvania on a two-week cross-country trip that will hit many of the key battleground states in the Nov. 2 election that polls show is essentially a dead heat.

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