Ohio tipped the scale in a not-so-competitive contest Wednesday night, handing its 159 votes to John Kerry (search) during Wednesday's Democratic National Convention and pushing the Massachusetts senator past the 2,162-delegate threshold needed to clinch the nomination for president.

Sustained applause and cheers rang through the arena as former Sen. John Glenn spoke on behalf of the Ohio delegation.

"Ohio cast all 159 votes for Sen. Kerry," said Alice Germond, secretary of the convention. Strains of the song "Celebration" then filled the hall as delegates took a break from the count. Prior to the roll call vote, the Black Eyed Peas performed “Let’s Get it Started.”

Republicans and Democrats agree that Ohio could hold the key to the general election. No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio, and its importance this week has not escaped the attention of convention planners, who put the state's delegates in a prime floor position in the convention hall.

Kerry, who was not at the arena when he was given the nomination, has been portrayed by Democrats as the man who can return a sense of security through the United States and renew damaged alliances with other nations around the world.

Edwards Enjoys Spotlight Too

Kerry, whose coronation was a formality after winning the Democratic primaries and caucuses earlier this year, will accept the nomination on Thursday night. On Wednesday night, he stayed in a hotel across town while John Edwards (search) excited the crowd at the FleetCenter.

Edwards said his running mate is a tested man of valor whose traits will be an asset to him as the next commander-in-chief, particularly when the nation is engaged in the War on Terror.

Edwards, the junior senator from North Carolina who was hand-picked by Kerry to be his vice presidential candidate, took the stage to thunderous applause, standing ovations and a sea of Edwards signs. He entered to the soundtrack of "Your Love is Lifting Me Higher."

Once the applause settled down, Edwards began touting the man his party is putting forth as president, saying Kerry’s military service is proof of his dedication to honor, country and fellow countrymen.

"If you have any question about what he's made of, you need to spend three minutes with the men who served with him then and stand by him today," Edwards said. "They saw him reach down and pull one of his men from the river and save his life. And in the heat of battle, they saw him decide in an instant to turn his boat around, drive it straight through an enemy position, and chase down the enemy to save his crew.

"Decisive. Strong. Aren't these the traits you want in a commander in chief? …This is a man who is prepared to keep the American people safe and to make America stronger at home and respected in the world."

Introducing Edwards was his wife, Elizabeth, who told delegates and guests she married the "single most optimistic person" she knew. Elizabeth said her husband worked "courageously, eloquently, with one overarching and simple goal: to make the great opportunities of America available to all Americans.

"We deserve leaders who allow their faith and moral core —  our faiths and moral core — to draw us closer together, not drive us farther apart," she continued. "We deserve leaders who believe in each of us."

Kerry and Edwards have prided themselves on what they say is their message of optimism. Asking the audience if they’re "sick" of negative politics launched by Republicans, Edwards said Democrats should brace themselves for more to come.

"They are doing all they can to take this campaign for the highest office in the land down the lowest possible road," Edwards told the convention’s 4,353 delegates and millions of Americans watching his speech on national television. "Between now and November, you the American people, you can reject the tired, old, hateful, negative, politics of the past. And instead you can embrace the politics of hope, the politics of what's possible because this is America, where everything is possible."

The son of a mill worker father and mother who worked a variety of odd jobs in Small Town, USA, Edwards is using that upbringing on the campaign trail as Kerry’s wingman to show he knows what it’s like to work one’s way up.

"The heart of this campaign — your campaign — is to make sure that everyone has those same opportunities that I had growing up — no matter where you live, who your family is, or what the color of your skin is," Edwards said. "This is the America we believe in."

Edwards also repeated his primary campaign theme that the country is divided and in desperate need of repair.

"We still live in two different Americas: one for people who have lived the American Dream and don't have to worry, and another for most Americans who work hard and still struggle to make ends meet," he said. "It doesn't have to be that way. We can build one America."

A Packed Agenda

The Kerry-Edwards agenda includes halting tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs, investing in technologies to keep America on the cutting edge, rolling back tax cuts for the wealthiest people, raising the minimum wage, enacting better welfare reform, taking care of the nation’s veterans, securing stockpiles of dangerous materials and loose nuclear weapons in Russia and protecting civil rights, Edwards said.

Democrats are trying to portray the Bush White House as one that’s sloppily handled the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Polls, however, show Bush still enjoys a lead above his general election opponent in the security arena.

But Edwards said that as the country approaches the third anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Kerry and he would do a better job, would “do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to make sure that never happens again, not to our America.”

That includes getting NATO to help secure Iraq, doubling America’s special forces and investing in new equipment and technologies for the U.S. military.

“When John is president, we will listen to the wisdom of the Sept. 11 commission,” Edwards said, referring to the bipartisan panel that released its report on failed intelligence efforts prior to the attacks. “And we will have one clear unmistakable message for Al Qaeda and the rest of these terrorists. You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you.”

Speakers: Kerry Will Make the Nation Secure

During the night, speaker after speaker stressed Kerry will better position the United States in the eyes of the global community and will not pursue the go-it-alone policy in the War on Terror.

"He understands the urgent need to bring this country together toward a common purpose, a united America," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (search) of California, in remarks that placed Kerry's name in nomination during the convention.

"This is not just about winning an election, it’s about preserving a principle on which this very nation was found," said Rev. Al Sharpton (search), who made a run for the Democratic nomination. "Look at the current view of our nation worldwide as a result of our unilateral foreign policies … we can’t survive in the world by ourselves."

Repeating the words of Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy the night before, Sharpton said the United States "squandered" an opportunity after Sept. 11 to strengthen global ties. He added that when it comes to the war in Iraq: "We were misled."

Florida Sen. Bob Graham (search), who also ran for president this year, said, "it’s the leadership that has been missing" in protecting the nation from terrorist threats.

Graham, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Kerry "recognizes that victory in the War on Terror requires all of the resources of the Untied States: diplomatic, economic, intelligence and military."

"For our children and grandchildren, for our security, for our country, we must elect John Kerry the next president of the United States."

And there was more dancing in the aisles Wednesday night as delegates jammed to songs like "Shout," "We Are Family" and "Livin' in America," and John Mellencamp also had the crowd singing along to his tune, "Small Town."

Dems: Be 'Mad as Hell'

Kerry made a splashy entrance in Boston when he took a tour boat with fellow Vietnam Navy crewmates across Boston Harbor to the Charleston Navy Yard for a rally with supporters. The endorsement of 12 former admirals and generals added to Kerry's "street cred" with the military vote.

Picking up on the security theme once again, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said the United States has "alienated" its allies and needs a change in leadership.

"America needs a new president, a new president who has the vision and the credibility to repair the damage that the current administration has done to America’s reputation," Leahy said, noting last week’s release of the Sept. 11 commission report.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley said Kerry will implement a homeland security policy void of "empty words and rhetoric."

Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who has been a vocal opponent of the Iraq war, said Americans should be "mad as hell" that senior citizens can’t get quality, affordable health care, that the United States went to war with "bad information" and that "our kids are being used …and they have to join the military because they can’t find a job."

In an effort to insure that wealthy young people serve in the military too, Rangel has called for the draft to be reinstated.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer said Kerry understands the need for a strong foreign policy that involves working closely with allies. And Kerry will dedicate more resources and effort to defend the nation’s ports, railways and bridges.

"No country, no matter how strong," can fight the War on Terror alone Schumer said. "John Kerry is the right choice for America’s safety, security and strength."

Kucinich, who as a past presidential candidate got an evening speaking slot, repeated familiar themes of his, saying the Bush administration rushed the nation into a war "based on distortions and misrepresentations. And that it needs to be held accountable."

Kucinich said a different kind of weapons of mass destruction needs to be dealt with other than those being searched for in Iraq. "They’re in the nation’s cities. They include poverty, joblessness, homelessness, racism and fear.

"We will carry America for Kerry and Kerry will carry America for us," he said.

On the domestic front, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada called Kerry the "real deal" and said Bush's promises of job creation, education and prescription drug coverage were "fool's gold."

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (search) said Kerry can do a better job than Bush at making sure more jobs stay at home. Saying 2.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost in her state in the last four years as health care bills rise and gas tanks eat up workers’ earnings, "middle-class Americans are being squeezed."

"My friends, we must demand a leader who will be as fiercely patriotic about our economic security as about our physical security," Granholm said. "And that leader’s name is John Kerry."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson told the crowds that the Kerry-Edwards ticket is the one that will "keep hope alive."

"John Kerry and John Edwards will reinvest in America and put America back to work," he said. "They represent hope and healing for a new America. John Kerry and John Edwards will fight for health care for all. John Kerry and John Edwards will fight for our environment and civil rights."