By Tom Raum
The Associated Press
BOSTON - John Edwards, the upbeat Southern populist on John Kerry's ticket, accused Republicans on Wednesday of trying to "take this campaign for the highest office in the land down the lowest possible road."
In a speech to convention delegates poised to make him their vice presidential nominee, the North Carolina senator asked Americans to "reject the tired, old, hateful, negative politics of the past" and embrace a Democratic team he said was full of promise and possibilities.
"We choose hope over despair, possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism," Edwards said. "What John Kerry and I believe is that you should never look down on anybody, that we should lift people up. We don't believe in tearing people apart. We believe in bringing people together.
"What we believe - what I believe - is that the family you're born into and the color of your skin in our America should never control your destiny. "
Edwards revived the "two Americas" theme he used in his failed presidential bid, saying the privileged have access to good schools, health-care options and economic opportunities that others don't.
"It doesn't have to be that way," he said.
Edwards outlined Kerry's tax, health-care and education policies before promising a Democratic ticket that will protect America.
With the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaching, he said, "We will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to make sure that never happens again, not in our America."
A former rival of Kerry's who fashioned a sunny, optimistic message during the primary fight, Edwards made no mention of President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney in his address.
But he made no secret of his differences with the Republican ticket, and sought to bolster Kerry against criticism that he's not ready to be commander in chief.
Following in the steps of a parade of speakers before him, Edwards pointed to Kerry's valorous service in the Vietnam War more than 30 years ago as evidence of the candidate's fitness to serve in the White House.
Those crewmates "saw up close what he's made of," Edwards said. "They saw him reach down and pull one of his men from the river and save his life. And in the heat of battle, they saw him decide in an instant to turn his boat around, drive it straight through an enemy position and chase down the enemy to save his crew."
"Decisive. Strong," Edwards said. "Aren't these the traits you want in a commander in chief?"
The many injured U.S. soldiers in Iraq "deserve a president who understands on the most personal level what they have gone through," Edwards said. Kerry won three Purple Hearts in combat.
Earlier Wednesday, Kerry arrived in Boston aboard a water taxi with crewmates from his Vietnam swiftboat.
A dozen fellow veterans accompanied him, including Jim Rassmann, the retired Special Forces soldier whose life Kerry saved from a muddy river in the Mekong Delta while under enemy fire.
"No retreat, no surrender," Kerry vowed after crossing Boston's inner harbor for a welcome-home rally in the city that has nourished his political career for a quarter-century.
"We are taking this fight to the country and we are going to win back our democracy and our future," he said.
The convention program called for the delegates to formally bestow their presidential nomination on Kerry in the midnight hour, after his running mate's prime-time oratory.
"He understands the urgent need to bring this country together toward a common purpose, a united America," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who placed Kerry's name in nomination.
Kerry's speech tonight marks the finale of a unified party convention but also the kickoff of what is likely to be a bruising, closely contested fall campaign.
Edwards was introduced by his wife, Elizabeth, who said in a text of her address: "We deserve leaders who allow their faith and moral core, our faiths and moral core, to draw us closer together, not drive us farther apart. We deserve leaders who believe in each of us."
Edwards viewed his nationally televised prime-time acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention as an opportunity to introduce himself and Kerry to millions of Americans who know little about either.
Edwards was Kerry's last major Democratic challenger to fold his campaign. He won but one primary - South Carolina, where he was born - but finished a strong second in many other states.
The 51-year-old Edwards said he wrote most of the speech himself in longhand on yellow legal pad, going through some 30 drafts.
Edwards' speaking style - direct, without notes and with short sentences and simple words - was honed over years as a plaintiffs' trial lawyer, helping him win one multimillion-dollar verdict after another.
His 1998 Senate victory was his first try at elective office.
2004 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
Edwards: 'We choose hope over despair'
Pollster tunes in to local voices
Sharpton, Kucinich join fold
Edwards' wife describes his rise
Kerry won't neglect Ohio
Kerry needs to prove he can lead the nation
McConnell calls attacks 'vile'
Prime-time speakers tonight
Ky. Takes Back Seat To Ohio
'Kerry parties' number 20 here
Gannett News Service convention coverage
Enquirer's election section
Girls prison under scrutiny
Hundreds honor Hoff, 'everyone's parent' at XU
Political funds face scrutiny
Auto pollution increases health risks
IN THE TRISTATE
More cars a concern in Evendale
Dems have a friend(?) in Flynt and his new book
Rate increase goes to voters
Local news briefs
Loveland may ease its rules on signs
Attorney general puts lottery in charge of bingo
Young Dems get campaign pointers
Guilty plea in gym scam
Former professor convicted of murder
Court asked to reconsider ban on Commandments
Hit-run victims get new shot at claims
Pendleton drug drive-through blocked
City schools plan hearing on budget
Suit against treasurer surprises county
West Chester center may be on Nov. ballot
Planners to consider Westwood rezoning
Transfer station coming to ex-landfill
Good Things Happening
Retirement wasn't idle time for L. Winiarski
Adjutant general fell into career
FOP wants into state budget suit
Bunning says veterans need best health care
Covington wants CSX bridge fixed
Judge rejects bond for murder suspect
Fletcher names 1st black to cabinet
Forest plan has foes on two sides
Florence Freedom hit with 9th lien
Gov. leaves comedy to pros
$143M settlement nets Ricky Martin, other CDs
Democrat Ridley wins Ky. Senate open seat
Sewer plant under way soon
Alexander may help get Boone new turf
Kentucky News briefs