Image: Kerry
Presidential hopeful John Kerry visits over corndogs with Devon Silk at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.
By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 8/22/2003 9:35:44 AM ET 2003-08-22T13:35:44

Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts will make the formal announcement of his candidacy on Sept. 2 in front of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C., news that quickly drew scorn from rival Democratic presidential campaigns. Kerry and other Democrats criticized President Bush for using an aircraft carrier as the venue for declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq on May 1.

Kerry attacked Bush for landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, an event that was broadcast live on cable television news channels and which was filmed for use by the Bush campaign in TV ads.

On July 16 in a speech to firefighters in the Bronx, N.Y., Kerry declared, “Words, no matter how tough, are not enough. A flight to an aircraft carrier, no matter how well staged, does not end a war.”

Dag Vega, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, confirmed a Boston Globe story that first reported Friday that Kerry would use the carrier USS Yorktown as the backdrop for his formal announcement.

The Yorktown was commissioned in 1943 and saw duty in World War II and in the Vietnam war. It was decommissioned in 1973 and dedicated as a memorial in 1975.

TO HIGHLIGHT VIETNAM SERVICE

“We feel it’s important to highlight Sen. Kerry’s biography,” said Vega, referring to Kerry’s service in the Navy from 1966 to 1970, which included a tour of combat duty in Vietnam. “His experience in Vietnam is an important part of who he is.”

Vega said the South Carolina event with the aircraft carrier was chosen as the first event of a two-day announcement tour that will also include events in Iowa, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. “Everyone agrees that South Carolina plays an important role in the nomination of the Democratic candidate. We plan to compete seriously in the state,” said Vega.

A spokesman for a rival Democratic presidential campaign, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “I don’t think anyone can say with a straight face that this is anything but gimmickry.”

He added that it was significant that Kerry was beginning his tour in South Carolina. “This indicates an adjustment in strategy. He is not able to count on a win in New Hampshire,” the spokesman said. “At the start of the year, Kerry was well above the rest of the field in New Hampshire. Since then he has seen his lead in the polls completely disappear.”

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DROP IN POLLS

A January poll of likely New Hampshire voters showed Kerry leading the field with 27 percent and former Vermont governor Howard Dean running second with 15 percent.

The most recent survey by the same polling firm, American Research Group, conducted last week, showed Kerry trailing Dean, who had support from 28 percent of those interviewed, compared to 21 percent who backed Kerry.

New Hampshire voters take part in the presidential primary on Jan. 27, a week after the Iowa caucuses. Polls in Iowa also show Dean leading, with Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt placing second and Kerry third.

At most of his campaign appearances, Kerry makes a point of mentioning his service in Vietnam.

At a recent AFL-CIO candidate forum on economic and health care issues, Kerry went out of his way to say, “I am the only person on this stage ... who has actually fought in a war and served in uniform.”

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