- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 8, 2004

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry yesterday told supporters in Florida, the most important swing state in the November election, that he will make certain every vote is counted this time.

“In 2004, not only does every vote in Florida count, but every vote is going to be counted,” he said, challenging election officials to finish fixing or buying new voting machines in time for the election. “I’ll make a deal with them — they fix those machines, and we’ll fix America.”

Mr. Kerry, speaking to more than 1,000 supporters in Fort Lauderdale, also offered the help of 4-year-old Jack Edwards and 6-year-old Emma Claire Edwards, the children of running mate Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

“They really know how to count. I’ve given them a special duty in this election. We’re sending Jack and Emma Claire down here to help those Republicans in West Palm Beach count those votes,” he said.

In a nod to the state’s large percentage of senior voters, Mr. Kerry promised he would “never privatize Social Security” and would overturn President Bush’s policy restricting research on stem cells that could help find a cure for Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

Florida’s 27 electoral votes are the most of any state considered up for grabs in November’s presidential election. Both campaigns have advertised heavily in the state, which Mr. Bush won in 2000 by 537 votes — a number many Democrats in Washington know by heart.

Democrats say anger over Florida’s 2000 election dispute, which ended with a 5-4 Supreme Court vote in Mr. Bush’s favor, will help them with their base, particularly black voters.

Wednesday night, speaking at a rally near St. Petersburg, Fla., Mr. Kerry said he will win another important Florida voting bloc.

“Cuban-Americans will vote for Kerry and Edwards in Florida … and I’ll tell you why they should,” he said. “John Edwards and I don’t just talk and not act; we have a better understanding of what we need in terms of a foreign policy that actually works for people and makes a difference in this country.”

Mr. Kerry announced Mr. Edwards as his running mate Tuesday morning. Since then, they have stumped in Ohio and Florida and planned campaign stops in West Virginia, New Mexico and Mr. Edwards’ home state of North Carolina.

Although voters appear to have embraced Mr. Kerry’s choice for a running mate, it hasn’t had much of an impact on his matchup with Mr. Bush.

A Zogby poll taken Tuesday and Wednesday and released yesterday found a Kerry-Edwards ticket beating Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney 48 percent to 46 percent, the same lead Mr. Kerry held a month ago when matched alone against Mr. Bush.

After Wednesday’s three appearances, when Mr. Kerry introduced Mr. Edwards at each stop, the team switched in Fort Lauderdale yesterday, with Mr. Edwards speaking first.

Although Mr. Edwards drew wilder applause, Mr. Kerry made it clear he was at the top of the ticket. Mr. Edwards repeated his speech of the past few days, but Mr. Kerry delivered new lines and charges against the Bush administration, particularly the president’s claim in the 2000 campaign that he wanted to unite Americans.

“He’s got a problem with math, because he not only divides America, but the budget numbers don’t add up, the problems of the middle class are multiplying, and it’s clear the only way to solve the problem is to subtract George Bush from the equation,” Mr. Kerry said.

Last night, Mr. Kerry and the Democratic National Committee hosted a fund-raising concert in New York City.

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