October 24, 2004 in Nation/World

Bush, Kerry hold rallies to push for voter turnout

Ron Hutcheson and Thomas Fitzgerald Knight Ridder
Associated Press photo

Sebastien Perron of Cocoa Beach, Fla., sporting his red, white and blue mohawk shaped as a “W,” waves a U.S. flag as he shows his support of President Bush Saturday at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.
(Full-size photo)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – President Bush and John Kerry energized supporters at boisterous weekend rallies Saturday as the two candidates worked to boost voter turnout in key battleground states.

Bush thrilled crowds in three Florida sports stadiums by swooping into the outdoor events by helicopter. He ended the day with a massive rally in Jacksonville, where some 30,000 people turned out to see the president at Alltel Stadium, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars football team.

Kerry rallied his backers at events in Pueblo, Colo., and Las Cruces, N.M., before traveling to Florida, a state that Bush carried in 2000 by a mere 537 votes.

This time around, the election outcome could hinge on which candidate does a better job getting supporters to the voting booths on Nov. 2. Although Bush leads Kerry in most national polls, the race remains too close to call in Florida and a handful of other big swing states.

Kerry, as his campaign’s final 10-day sprint began, switched from delivering formal speeches on issues to howling encouragement to supporters in hopes of inspiring them to action on Election Day.

“Vote your hopes, not the fears that George Bush wants you to feel,” Kerry urged some 10,000 raucous backers packed outside a movie-set-quality train depot in Pueblo, Colo. “Vote your hopes for our nation, vote the possibilities of your country. Vote for an America where we unite people again, and find the common ground.”

Bush hop-scotched across Florida with his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, who outlined the day’s mission at the first stop in Fort Myers.

“This rally is about mobilizing the troops to go out and work just a little bit harder,” Jeb Bush told a crowd of about 10,000 Bush supporters at City of Palms Park. “When Florida goes into the Bush column on Nov. 2, our president will get re-elected. It’s that simple.”

Bush arrived in the ballpark with a fleet of helicopters that raised clouds of dust on the baseball field, sent campaign signs soaring into the air and whipped the branches of palm trees.

The crowd loved it, especially when Bush’s white-top Marine helicopter drifted slowly downward from the sunny blue sky onto the lush green grass in left field.

Bush emerged from the craft to the theme song from the movie “Top Gun” and walked beneath a billboard that said, “Soaring to Victory.”

In Jacksonville, Bush treated his biggest crowd yet to a show that included cheerleaders, fireworks and a performance by country singer Aaron Tippin. Breaking with the theme set by warm-up speakers who cast Bush as a champion of traditional family values, Tippin sang “Kiss This,” a song about a woman who rebuffs her no-good lover.

“Kiss this … And I don’t mean on my rosy red lips,” Tippin sang to a crowd toting signs that included “God Wants Bush.”

In Colorado, Kerry summarized his case against Bush, then asked voters to give him the chance to “lift this country up.”

Kerry’s running mate, Sen. John Edwards, also campaigned Saturday in Florida. Addressing smaller-than-expected crowds in Orlando and St. Petersburg, Edwards pressed President Bush to clarify his plans for Social Security.

A recent New York Times magazine story quoted Bush supporters as saying that the president had told them that “privatizing Social Security” would be a second-term priority.

The Bush campaign has disputed the Times report.

Vice President Dick Cheney spent Saturday in New Mexico, where, at a speech in Farmington, he asserted that the Soviet Union might still exist and Saddam Hussein enjoy rule over Iraq had Kerry had been in the White House when Republican presidents acted on those matters.

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