Kerry pushes economy in Twin Cities speech

About 1,500 students rallied at Macalester College to hear the candidate speak.

Josh Verges

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told Minnesotans on Wednesday he is the candidate for the average voter.

“We’re here to mark the beginning of the end of the (George W.) Bush presidency,” Kerry told a crowd of approximately 1,500 at Macalester College in St. Paul.

Kerry criticized Bush’s tax cuts for big business.

“We are going to strip out of (the tax code) every incentive, every reward, every benefit that … takes money and jobs away from students,” he said.

“The (Bush administration has) turned their backs to the working Americans, turned their backs to the middle class, turned their backs to mainstream dreams and hopes,” Kerry said.

The Kerry campaign has focused recently on unemployment rates during Bush’s presidency.

Minnesota unemployment rose from 3.3 percent in January 2001 to 4.7 percent in December 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

University student Tony Zammit was one of about two dozen College Republicans who attended Kerry’s speech. He said Bush has done well considering the economic climate he inherited in 2000.

“It’s amazing the economy has picked up as quickly as it has,” Zammit said.

He said the College Republicans attended the event to show Bush has supporters among young people.

“Older people assume that all college students are very liberal,” Zammit said.

Kerry told the crowd, which included sign-carrying AFL-CIO-affiliated nurses, firefighters and steelworkers, he would bring back jobs that have left the country.

“If you give the American worker a fair field to compete on, there is nobody in the world the American worker can’t compete with,” he said.

The AFL-CIO gave Kerry its endorsement last week.

Zammit said Kerry’s senatorial voting record shows he is unwilling to adequately fund national defense. He said threats from Syria and other countries will make security as great a concern during the next term as it has been the last four years.

Kerry told the crowd he would not hesitate to go to war but would cooperate with the United Nations.

“Multilateralism is strength, not weakness,” he said. “The United States of America should never go to war because it wants to. We should only go to war because we have to.”

Kerry delivered a speech about jobs and the economy earlier Wednesday in Toledo, Ohio. From St. Paul, he will travel to the University of Southern California to participate in a Democratic debate.

Kerry has won 18 of 20 states and 618 delegates. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards holds 192 delegates. Al Sharpton has 16 delegates and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich has two. To win the nomination a candidate needs 2,162 delegate votes: a majority.

Macalester first-year student Joe Rand said he would like to see Kucinich or independent Ralph Nader in the White House. But he said the more moderate Kerry has the best chance of beating Bush.

Lars Johnson, a Macalester first-year student, said he came to the Kerry rally because he did not know much about the candidates. He said his class in international politics convinced him to vote against Bush this fall.

“It’s opened my eyes to how warlike our administration is,” Johnson said.