Republicans question Kerry’s ‘heart and soul’

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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Republicans yesterday demanded that Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry distance himself from an at-times obscene fund-raising concert Thursday, even as running mate John Edwards and he spent the day campaigning on being a better representation of American values than President Bush.

“If John Kerry is going to praise last night’s star-studded hate fest, and characterize it as the ‘heart and soul’ of America, he should share these values with voters everywhere,” Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said.

Democrats believe Mr. Edwards’ selection allows them the ability to talk about values with voters in parts of the country they weren’t able to reach in the last presidential election.

“The addition of Senator Edwards, I think, really opened the gate to us in [North Carolina] and given us the opportunity to talk to voters in that state and throughout the region,” Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said.

Mr. Edwards, a senator from North Carolina, has stepped right into that role, peppering his speeches with references to the values he learned growing up in that state.

“Values is not a word on a piece of paper. Values is not part of a political slogan. Values are what’s inside you,” Mr. Edwards said at a morning fund-raiser in New York yesterday.

But in a telephone press conference with reporters to claim victory in the campaign so far, Ms. Cahill spent much of her time defending the Bush-bashing concert and explaining that they will not release a tape of the event.

“Why would we do that?” she said, adding that Mr. Kerry “does not approve of some of the remarks that were made last night, and he has made that clear.”

“The performers last night speak for themselves, and John Kerry and John Edwards have made very clear over the past week what they think values are and what they’re going to be fighting for,” she said.

During the concert, held at Radio City Music Hall, actor Chevy Chase called Mr. Bush “a liar” and insulted his intelligence, and musician John Mellencamp, in a song, called the president “a cheap thug.” Actress Whoopi Goldberg also used Mr. Bush’s name as a sexual reference.

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards took the stage at the end of the evening to thank the performers, but did not distance themselves from the event. Yesterday, Ms. Cahill said the candidates do disagree with some comments, and Mr. Kerry “has made that clear.”

Kerry campaign adviser Tad Devine said Mr. Bush never releases tape or even names of attendees at their fund-raisers, and Ms. Cahill said the concert “was a generally attended event” and reporters were present to cover it.

The event raised $7.5 million, a new record for a Kerry, which will be split between the campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

To win the presidency, Mr. Kerry must capture one of the “Red” states that voted for President Bush last time, and that probably requires winning over rural voters. The two Democrats spent yesterday afternoon in West Virginia and New Mexico, trying to do just that.

Ms. Cahill said the campaign will appeal to those voters on “kitchen table values” like the cost of health care and lost jobs, rather than the Bush administration’s take on values, which consists of opposition to abortion and homosexual “marriage” and support for gun rights.

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