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Kerry sticks to upbeat tone before convention

/ Source: The Associated Press

Gearing up to accept the presidential nomination at his party’s convention next week, John Kerry on Saturday outlined the path — figuratively and literally — the Democratic ticket will take on its journey to Election Day.

“We intend to crisscross this country reminding people that what matters is not the narrow values that divide — but the shared values that have always united every American: faith and family, strength and service, responsibility and opportunity for all,” Kerry said in the weekly Democratic radio address.

As he did in a Denver speech Friday, Kerry discarded his usual criticism of President Bush to promote a more positive message.

Kerry, who was courting voters in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday, said the campaign “is about listening and learning from Americans who believe in their hearts that tomorrow can be better than today.”

Presenting an optimistic outlook for the country, Kerry said he and running mate John Edwards value good-paying jobs, affordable health care, independence from Mideast oil, a strong military and good relations abroad.

“We’re taking this trip with the hope that we can begin a new conversation in this country,” he said.

Kerry plans to roll into Boston on Thursday to accept his party’s nomination.

Revealing more of himself
Kerry does not typically open up about himself personally, and it’s part of the reason Americans don’t know much about him.

Many Democrats say he needs to reveal more of himself if he’s going to win over voters. Besides, they say, his biography may be his best asset — particularly his lauded service in the Vietnam War.

But the Bush campaign has spent millions of dollars on ads criticizing Kerry’s voting record that may leave more voters with the impression that he’s a flip-flopper than the Democrat’s preferred identity as a war hero. Kerry’s mission at the Democratic National Convention is to try to change that impression.

Kerry’s primary identity has been as a Massachusetts senator with 20 years of votes, some that Kerry touts and some that President Bush has tried to use against him. During the convention, Kerry hopes to move beyond his Senate voting record to define himself as a husband, father, combat veteran, tough prosecutor, national security expert, outdoorsman and man of faith, according to a campaign message document.

Kerry communications director Stephanie Cutter said the convention and the events leading up to it give Kerry a chance to tell the voters “what’s in his heart.”

“By the end of the week, they’ll have a sense of who the man is,” Cutter said.

Kerry’s stump speech has been harshly critical of Bush, but Cutter said the next week he will remain positive and focused on showing voters how he will make the country safe and secure.

The Kerry campaign does not want the convention to turn into a repeat of a celebrity fund-raiser two weeks ago in New York City, where Kerry ultimately distanced himself from the sometimes lewd Bush bashing from the performers. Cutter created bright red laminated pocket cards, which she distributed to Democratic members of Congress to carry around the convention with each day’s upbeat message.

“I don’t know if you can ever control completely what anyone says,” Kerry told USA Today for a story in Friday editions. “But obviously we are trying to encourage people to be as positive as they can be. Some may stray.”

Post-convention, a 21-state tour
After the convention, Kerry and Edwards plan a two-week coast-to-coast tour through 21 states via bus, train and boat. The campaign announced Friday the tour would begin July 30, and in the first days stop in Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville, Fla.; Dearborn, Flint and Grand Rapids, Mich.; Newburgh, N.Y., Zanesville and Bowling Green, Ohio; Scranton, Harrisburg and Greensburg, Pa.; Wheeling, W.Va.; and Milwaukee, Wis.

Later the tour will go through Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. The campaign has not yet released the cities that Kerry and Edwards will visit in those states.