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Kerry Takes The Stage

Kerry Takes The StageTonight,John Kerry will address the Democratic National Convention inwhat Tufts experts agree is one of the most important speechesof his political career.

Boston [07.29.04] On the final day of the Democratic National Convention, Senator John Kerry will formally accept his nomination as Democratic candidate for President with a major address to the nation. Under development for months, Kerry's speech will likely be tweaked and changed right up until the last minute. And experts agree it may well be the most important 60 minutes of his political career.

"More than anything else he does at the convention, Kerry needs to communicate in his acceptance speech that he is qualified to be commander in chief and that he will be effective in combating terrorism," Jeffrey Berry, Tufts professor of political science, told the Ottawa Citizen. "Whatever else he has to do is far down the list."

The presumed presidential nominee will be introduced by fellow Vietnam veteran Max Cleland, former U.S. Senator from Georgia - a move which many analysts say is an attempt to underscore Kerry's military history.

But proving he's strong on terrorism isn't the only important point Kerry must emphasize in his convention address - which will be broadcast to millions of viewers worldwide. The Senator from Massachusetts needs to also appear strong on the issues, said Tufts political scientist James Glaser.

"I think he's got to turn that flip-flopper image into an argument that he understands the complexities of the country and the world and that they require savvy and sophistication," Glaser - who specializes in American politics and political behavior - told the Boston Globe.

Kerry's long-winded and intellectual image, says the Tufts expert, may play to his benefit.

"Just as George W. Bush is stubborn to some people and principled to others, Kerry needs to turn this complicated style into a positive." Glaser told the Globe.

For some of the nation, the speech will serve as their first introduction to Kerry - who, despite the highly-watched primaries, still lacks the recognition of incumbent president George W. Bush.

As he takes the stage as the Democratic nominee, Kerry will also be stepping into his role as the new figurehead for the Democratic party. It's a role that carries tremendous responsibility, said Berry, since the candidate has huge sway in shaping and communicating the party platform.

"The platform reflects the winner, and the winner controls the platform committee and therefore it's not going to be significantly at odds with the position of the nominee," Berry told the Standard Times.

While undecided voters around the country may decide if they'll support Kerry based on his speech, many of the party's loyalists across Massachusetts and in the convention hall itself need little persuasion.

"For [Democrats] here, it's hatred of President Bush that colors everything," Berry told the Hartford Courant. "At this point, they would forgive John Kerry for robbing banks."

He added, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find another state where the outrage against the war is as strong."

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