BUFFALO, N.Y. – Democratic rivals John Kerry (search) and John Edwards (search) campaigned on opposite ends of upstate New York Sunday, two days before voters cast their ballots in the crucial "Super Tuesday" primary.
Throughout the campaign, the two senators had focused most of their attention downstate, since 70 percent of the primary votes normally come from New York City and its suburbs.
But Kerry said he didn't make the trip to Buffalo to host a town hall meeting "just to find something to do on the Sunday before the Tuesday primary."
"I came here to mark with you the beginning of the end of the Bush presidency," he said in a high-energy hourlong town meeting.
Answering questions from the audience, Kerry touched on upstate political hot-button issues including job security, education funding, and attracting business by lowering utility costs.
His message of properly funding first responders was especially well-received in a city that has been forced by budget problems into painful restructurings of police and fire services.
"We should not be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them down in the United States," Kerry said, gaining a standing ovation from firefighters who peppered the crowd of roughly 500.
Independent polls have shown Kerry sporting a big lead over Edwards in New York. Edwards has virtually ceded four New England states to Kerry and stands little chance of victory in the biggest battlegrounds, New York and California, or Maryland.
Nevertheless, at the other end of the state Sunday, Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings and U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty, D-N.Y., introduced Edwards to a crowd of about 400 people who stood in line, then waited an hour and a half in a cold airport hangar to hear from Edwards. He also focused on jobs and the economy, education and health care.
Eighteen-year-old Will Mau said he planned to cast his first vote for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) but said he supports Edwards now that Dean is out of the race. The Schenectady native and his friends decided to attend the rally less than an hour before it began.
Mau said he supports Edwards' strong focus on the economy. He, like other Edwards supporters, said he believes Kerry has changed positions too many times.
Edwards didn't veer much from the points he has been making at stops across the country. He called for equality in health care, education, taxes, and jobs, saying he wanted to "lift up and strengthen working middle class families that are living paycheck to paycheck."
"We have so much work to do in our country to build one America that works for everybody instead of the two Americas we now have -- one for families that get everything they need whenever they need it, and one for everybody else," Edwards said in a 20-minute speech.
Kerry, who picked up the endorsement of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo Saturday, won the backing of four newspapers in New York, which all cited Kerry's experience and said he represents the Democrats' best chance to unseat President Bush in November.
"Kerry's lengthier and more deeply grounded service in the Senate seems absolutely vital to a solid presidential candidacy," The Buffalo News said in its editorial published Sunday. "If the nation decides to change leaders this November, it should place the White House and America's future in experienced hands. Kerry best meets that standard."
The New York Daily News called Kerry "a sharp contrast to Bush. He is pro-choice, opposes the death penalty except for terrorists, favors gun control and would repeal the President's tax breaks for the wealthy."
Newsday wrote that Kerry "has proven himself" during his long record of public life.
Meanwhile, the Times Union of Albany wrote Kerry "has emerged as the most qualified Democrat running." The newspaper also wrote that John Edwards should top Kerry's list of possible running mates because Edwards "represents great promise for the future of his party."
A Kerry-Edwards ticket, the Buffalo News said, "would be formidable."