Posted 4:01pm March 28
by Aaron Huertas
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry was endorsed by his former rival and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean during a rally at the George Washington University held Thursday.
Dean and Kerry emphasized the importance of mobilizing young voters in the coming election. Young people who supported Dean organized themselves on college campuses nation-wide under the name Generation Dean.
“It’s Generation Dean voting for John Kerry for President of the United States that’s going to send George W. Bush back to Crawford, Texas,” Dean told the cheering crowd of about 1,000.
Kerry echoed Dean’s message to volunteers to the crowd of college students, saying, “You have the power.”
The rally was one of the first major campaign events after Kerry’s vacation last week. The Kerry campaign is hoping to tap into the movement that formed behind Dean’s candidacy.
“This is a very substantial thing,” said Dustin Harrison, a student who has been volunteering for the Kerry campaign, “because Dean ran a negative campaign in general and he has a lot of ideas and support and now he’s turning it over.”
Students like Harrison typically fill volunteer positions on political campaigns and do much of the grunt work of politics like phone banking, distributing information and participating in get-out the vote drives.
“Young people are the lifeblood of political activity,” said the school’s Student Association President Omar Woodard. “Without young people, political activity wouldn’t be what it is now.”
Students wearing shirts that said, “Change Starts Here,” stood behind Dean and Kerry when they spoke. Volunteers from the Kerry campaign handed out signs to the crowd including ones that read, “I’m a Dean Democrat voting for John Kerry.”
Kerry’s stance as a Senate veteran pitted him against Dean, a Vermont outsider, in the primaries. Kerry said he had respect and admiration for the “conversation Howard Dean began.” He told the crowd, “We are going to give America a dialogue about our future we can be proud of.”
Kerry tailored his speech to the college crowd by touting his planned $4,000 tax credit for people paying tuition costs. He also said he wants to start a program whereby students can volunteer in their communities for two years and the federal government will pay for their in-state college tuition.
Kerry was also endorsed Thursday by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees, a large and politically powerful union. He hosted a “unity dinner” fundraiser with fellow Democrats including former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter Thursday night.
Kerry will visit Michigan, Missouri and California in the next few days to give stump speeches and close the gap between his campaign and Bush’s in fundraising. As of March 1, Kerry’s campaign was $5 million in debt and the Bush campaign had $108 million on hand.
Now that he has secured enough delegates be a lock for the nomination at the convention, Kerry is taking the helm of the Democratic Party. His endorsement by Dean is meant to close the gap between the moderate and left-leaning camps in the Democratic Party. The “unity dinner” represents the start of the next phase of the campaign season: the mobilization of the party for the candidate and the long march to the debates.