Kerry and Edwards begin two-week campaign trip

SCRANTON, Pa. – Newly crowned Democratic standard-bearer Sen. John Kerry and running mate John Edwards embarked on a two-week coast-to-coast trip across the country just eight hours after standing in a downpour of balloons and confetti at the end of their nominating convention.

“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,” Kerry said at an early morning rally along Boston Harbor. “We’re going to change that around. Help is on the way for the average person in this country.”

Kerry fired back at Bush’s criticism Friday of his congressional record:

“Look, I’m running a positive campaign for the country and I’ll stand on my 19-year record – pages of legislation and long lists ranging from 100,000 cops on the street to health care for children to agent orange legislation to fisheries.

“I mean, it’s a long list. I’m not going to quibble about that. They don’t have a record to run on, so all they can do is attack. They’re running away from their own record.”

Kerry said he would put Osama bin Laden on trial in U.S. courts rather than an international tribunal to ensure the “fastest, surest route” to a murder conviction if the terrorist mastermind is captured while he is president.

“I want him tried for murder in New York City, and in Virginia and in Pennsylvania,” where planes hijacked by al-Qaida operatives crashed Sept. 11, 2001, Kerry said.

His caravan of 10 buses and at least 11 other support vehicles rolled through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania on Friday.

He didn’t stop in the Democratic stronghold of Connecticut, but pulled over at Wendy’s, a fast food restaurant, in New York’s GOP-leaning Hudson Valley for an anniversary tradition.

John and Elizabeth Edwards ate at a Wendy’s on their wedding night 27 years ago when they were recent law school grads too broke for a fancy meal. Although they have become millionaires several times over, they say they observe the tradition each year.

This time, dozens of peering reporters and photographers may have ruined the romance. But at least Kerry paid the bill.

The two couples brought along their adult children and blockbuster actor Ben Affleck for some extra attention on their tour’s opening weekend.

Kerry’s morning rally was surprisingly small for the hometown nominee, with no more than 500 people only half-filling a harbor-side park. The afternoon rally in Scranton was a more impressive draw, with several thousand cheering supporters filling at least three city blocks, hanging out of office buildings and garages.

Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission on Friday approved the release of $74.7 million in federal funds that Kerry and Edwards will use from now until Election Day. The agency notified the Treasury Department, which will wire the cash to the campaign, the commission said.

Because Kerry accepted public funding for the general election, he is barred from spending any other cash since becoming his party’s nominee.

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