Kerry rallies in Pittsburgh
Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., brought his campaign to Pittsburgh last night, talking to an enthusiastic rally on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.
"Never has there been an election with so much on the table," Kerry said to the crowd. "Never has there been an election when every vote counts so much."
President Bush, Kerry added, "does not have a record to run on. He has a record to run away from."
With 13 days left until Election Day, Kerry is concentrating on the important swing states that both candidates are striving to win. On Tuesday, the senator was in Florida, where early voting has already started. Yesterday he flew from Waterloo, Iowa, to Pittsburgh, arriving at around 6 p.m.
Aging rocker Jon Bon Jovi played three songs before Kerry's entrance. Bon Jovi warned the audience that "this election is important not just for America, but for the world."
Kerry commented that Bon Jovi has written two songs about the Bush administration, even if he didn't know it.
"One was about the present state of our health care; its called "Bad Medicine." The other, about the economy, is called "Living on a Prayer."
A Kerry campaign volunteer estimated that the rally was bigger than Al Gore's in 2000, which was staged in the same place.
Crowds began arriving at CMU early in the afternoon. As Secret Service agents and Pittsburgh police set up metal detectors and fences around the mall area of campus, lines stretched toward Forbes Avenue.
Before the gates were opened around 4 p.m., Edward E. Stevens, a Korean War veteran, explained why he supports Kerry.
"He is the best choice to straighten out this country and the world," he said. "We all need to be in the same groove when it comes to fighting these terrorists, so we need co-operation."
"The Bush administration," he added, "has been a disaster in many areas, especially in Iraq. That country is now a magnet for terrorists. It's a terrible situation."
As Kerry spoke on stage, a group of Bush supporters staged a protest outside the rally, holding banners and chanting. One banner read, "Like Communism? Vote Kerry."
According to Ryan Martz, a freshman at Pitt, there was conflict between Republicans and Democrats. It was a "heated event," he said.
"[The Democrats] were grabbing our signs," Martz claimed, "pushing us, and some were throwing water on us. The police had to break some people apart. It's just a difference of opinion. We shouldn't be fighting."
On stage, Kerry spoke on a wide range of issues. On Iraq, he repeated his pledge to "bring back our allies." America needs other countries around the world, he said, to fight with the U.S. against terrorism.
Kerry also spoke of America's needs at home. "Why are we having to import flu vaccines from England?" he asked, referring to the much-publicized vaccine shortage in recent days.
"Why are senior citizens having to go up to Canada to buy the vaccines, at a cheaper price? We should be making [the vaccines] right here in America."
Kerry called for the U.S. to return to an age of invention, mentioning the Wright Brothers' historic flight in North Carolina, and the space age of the 1960s. A Kerry administration, the senator said, "will recommit America to science and exploration. And we will do stem cell research that will help millions of American lives."
In closing, Kerry spoke of his vision for the economy.
"I don't want Americans to work for the economy; I want the economy to work for Americans," he said.
As the U2 song "Beautiful Day" boomed through the large stage speakers, Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, walked along the crowd barrier shaking hands.
"It's like one of those rock concerts," said an older woman as she was being pushed by audience members reaching over each other to touch the senator.
Dave Farkas, a junior at Pitt, said he was "happy and surprised that Kerry came out and talked about stem cell research, and didn't dance around the idea like he did at the debates."
"This is the first political rally I've ever been to," Farkas said. "And I was really impressed by the size and intensity of the crowd. You felt the Kerry fever, and felt part of something."
"I saw the unity between college kids and old people," he added. "To see people so united behind a presidential candidate was incredible."