Newly declared Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) and his running mate John Edwards (search) made their first campaign stop outside of Boston on Friday, telling a large Scranton, Pa., crowd that help is on the way.
"I think what brings so many of you down here on a hot afternoon is not just about politics, it's because you feel deeply in your hearts and your guts that we can do better in America," Kerry said, standing on a stage among family, local politicians and celebrity backer Ben Affleck (search).
"What brings us here are not words but real values."
Earlier Friday, Kerry and Edwards rolled out of the host city of the Democratic National Convention (search) to start a two-week, 3,500-mile campaign on buses emblazoned with the slogan, "Believe in America."
After Scranton, the Kerry-Edwards bus rolls on to Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, a state Bush lost by 5 percentage points in 2000.
In Harrisburg, Kerry tailored an environmental message to sportsmen.
"This is one of the great preserves that cares about hunting and fishing and I say to you -- as a hunter, as a fisherman -- we need to preserve the habitat," the Massachusetts senator said. "We need to pass it on to our children in better shape than we were given it by our parents."
His pitch to independent and undecided voters included a strong emphasis on defense and security in an age of terrorism.
Before arriving in the Keystone State the Kerry-Edwards team made a pit stop at a Newburgh, N.Y., Wendy's on Friday to celebrate the 27th wedding anniversary of Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth Edwards.
The Kerrys and Affleck joined the Edwardses' fast-food tradition, which began on the couple's first anniversary. The Edwardses and Affleck ordered burgers and Frosties while the Kerrys tried the chili.
Kerry and Edwards took the opportunity to shake hands with surprised Wendy's patrons and posed for photos before taking the "Believe in America" tour to Scranton Friday afternoon.
Kerry launched the coast-to-coast campaign swing through 21 states after formally accepting his party's nomination to run against President Bush (search) in November. The tour aims to convince millions of undecided voters that he will stand up for ordinary Americans.
"Ninety-seven days, let's make it happen," Kerry said during an early morning rally at Boston's Langone Park.
Friday morning he stood with Edwards and their families on the sun-dappled harbor shore while hundreds of enthusiastic supporters cheered them on.
"Americans are playing by the rules while a whole group of people are writing the rules for themselves and leaving the rest of America out. We're going to change that around. Help is on the way for the average person in this country," Kerry said, repeating a refrain from his acceptance speech.
Bush returned to Washington, D.C., on Thursday evening after spending the week at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Republicans hope to counter any upswing for Kerry by casting Bush as a can-do leader and convincing voters that Kerry has not earned the right to be commander in chief.
Beginning a two-day swing through four presidential battlegrounds, Bush spoke in Springfield, Mo., on Friday.
"I'm looking forward to the campaign," said Bush. "I'm looking forward to getting out amongst the people ... With your help, Dick Cheney and I will lead this nation for four more years."
Bush emphasized some differences between himself and Kerry.
"There will be big differences in this campaign. They're going to raise your taxes — we're not. We have a clear vision on how to win the War on Terror and bring peace to the world.
"They somehow believe the heart and soul of America can be found in Hollywood. The heart and soul of America is found right here in Springfield, Missouri."
Friday's stumping comes after a four-day rally at the FleetCenter in Boston — ground zero for the Democratic National Convention.
"We are here tonight because we love our country," Kerry said Thursday night in the city that's nurtured his political career for nearly a quarter of a century. "Tonight I am home."
Kerry's campaign boasted the he raised $5.6 million on his Web site on the day of his acceptance, a record in online donations. The campaign said it will turn the money over to the Democratic National Committee now that Kerry is operating under public financing laws as the official nominee.
Kerry officially accepted his party's nomination on Thursday night, weaving national security themes heavily into his speech in an effort to prove to voters that although Bush is enjoying more favorable ratings in the polls in this area, the Massachusetts senator has what it takes to be a great commander-in-chief.
"Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military," the Vietnam veteran told 4,353 delegates, thousands of media personnel and millions of Americans at home via national television.
With slightly more than three months until the election, Kerry is virtually tied with Bush and likely to enjoy a bounce in the polls from this week's convention.
Kerry hit hard at the president's handling of the Iraq war and the War on Terror in his acceptance speech Thursday night.
"Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so," Kerry told the packed stadium and television audience of millions.
"And proclaiming mission accomplished certainly doesn't make it so," he said to roars.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, called Kerry's speech "an A-plus, a home run."
"He did everything we wanted him to," Richardson told FOX News Friday. "He connected with the American people...he was humorous and appeared as a real good guy. He's been a leader, he's got the experience, and he's ready to be president."
Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said the president did not watch Kerry's convention address but had read and seen reports about it. McClellan called it a "nicely crafted speech" but said it offered nothing new in terms of vision.
"I think the senator of Massachusetts is a walking contradiction," McClellan told reporters. He criticized Kerry's Senate record and said Kerry is "running as fast and as far as he can from that record."
A Call for Change
The Kerry-Edwards agenda includes halting tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs, investing in technologies to keep America on the cutting edge of its competition, 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.
Democrats are trying to portray the Bush White House as one that has sloppily handled the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet polls show Bush enjoys a lead above his general election opponent in the security arena.
"I will be a commander-in-chief who will never mislead us into war," Kerry said Thursday night, vowing to fight a "more effective War on Terror" if elected to the White House. "And on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace."
Edwards said Wednesday night that as the country approaches the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, he and Kerry "will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to make sure that never happens again, not to our America."
FOX News' Kathleen Wereszynski, Amy C. Sims, Liza Porteus, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.