Tue, Jul 27, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Democrats take the stage in Boston

INTRODUCING THE CANDIDATE The party aims to use this week's convention to raise John Kerry's appeal to voters by burnishing his image as a decisive leader

REUTERS , BOSTON

A Boston police officer keeps an eye on floor activities as final preparations are made at the Fleet Center for the Democratic National Convention on Sunday in Boston.

PHOTO: EPA

Democrats were slated to open their national convention last night with appearances by an all-star lineup of party veterans headed by former US president Bill Clinton, all designed to help introduce White House hopeful Senator John Kerry and his campaign message to voters.

Clinton, former president Jimmy Carter, former vice president Al Gore and New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton were among the speakers scheduled for yesterday's opening session, which laid out some of the party's themes for Kerry's November election matchup with President George W. Bush.

The first night was to include speeches highlighting Kerry's proposals to create jobs, provide affordable health care and rebuild foreign alliances, part of the convention's theme of "stronger at home, respected in the world."

Democrats want to use the convention to showcase the life story of the decorated Vietnam War veteran, hoping to burnish the senator's credentials as a decisive leader and soften the image of the sometimes wooden campaigner.

"The convention is a defining moment for America and for the Democratic Party," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who has promised to rein in the anti-Bush fervor among the party's speakers.

Polls show many voters still do not know much about Kerry, who is tied with Bush or slightly leading him in most public surveys. The conventions are traditionally the first time many voters start to pay attention to the campaign.

The convention opened under heavy security following warnings it could be a potential target for terrorists. Authorities shut down a major commuter railway station under the Fleet Center convention site, closed some 65km of surrounding highways and blanketed nearby streets with officers.

Kerry, who made a brief, surprise trip to Boston on Sunday night to throw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees baseball game, will not return until Wednesday and will accept the nomination in a nationally televised, prime-time speech on Thursday.

He was scheduled to campaign in Florida yesterday, visiting the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral and later Norfolk, Virginia, the site of a major naval base.

The Kerry campaign has been previewing convention speeches to try to keep the message positive, seeking to focus on building Kerry's image rather than bashing Bush.

"This is the most unified convention the Democratic Party has ever had," said New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, co-chairman of the convention.

"There won't be any bashing of the president -- well, hang on, there will be some of that," he said.

Also scheduled to speak yesterday was David Alston, a crew mate of Kerry on the boat he commanded in Vietnam.

Also see story:

GOP opens its war room

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