John Kerry walked out onto the stage in Pittsburgh just after 9 a.m. to Bruce Springsteen's Land of Hope and Dreams, and announced his choice of a running mate with his wife at his side. John Edwards is now traveling to join Kerry -- they'll meet up tonight in Pittsburgh, and will speak to the nation for the first time as a ticket tomorrow morning.
Kerry kicked off his campaign with Edwards without him by explaining why he chose his running mate. "[I have] chosen a man who understands and defends the values of America, a man who has shown courage and conviction as a champion of middle-class America and those struggling to reach the middle-class. A man who has shown guts, determination and political skill in his own race for the president of the United States, a man whose life has prepared him for leadership and whose character brings him to exercise it."
Parts of Kerry's introduction of Edwards seemed geared to preempt anticipated Republican criticism of the North Carolina senator -- specifically that the two men didn't always get along during the primary season (remember the Kerry "diapers" zinger that Kerry took back) and that Edwards, a career trial lawyer with barely one term as senator under his belt, isn't seasoned enough to be president himself. Speaking in Pittsburgh, Kerry said sometimes the men went "head to head," and after Edwards' six years in the Senate combined with his life experience, he "is ready for this job." Taking a page from Edwards' "Two Americas" primary campaign theme, Kerry said: "John Edwards and I will fight together for one America."
Here's the message John Kerry sent to supporters moments before the Pittsburgh announcement:
In just a few minutes, I will announce that Senator John Edwards will join me as my running-mate on the Democratic ticket as a candidate for vice president of the United States. Teresa and I could not be more excited that John and Elizabeth Edwards will be our partners in our journey to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.
You are the heart and soul of our campaign. You've shattered records and expectations every step of the way. Every time someone said you couldn't do it, you proved them wrong. Because of your incredible grassroots energy and commitment, I wanted to make the first official announcement of my decision to you -- more than one million online supporters at johnkerry.com.
I want you to know why I'm excited about running for president with John Edwards by my side. John understands and defends the values of America. He has shown courage and conviction as a champion for middle class Americans and those struggling to reach the middle class. In the Senate, he worked to reform our intelligence, to combat bioterrorism, and keep our military strong. John reaches across party lines and speaks to the heart of America -- hope and optimism. Throughout his own campaign for President, John spoke about the great divide in this country -- the "Two Americas" -- that exists between those who are doing well today and those who are struggling to make it from day to day. And I am so proud that we're going to build one America together.
In the next 120 days and in the administration that follows, John Edwards and I will be fighting for the America we love. We'll be fighting to give the middle class a voice by providing good paying jobs and affordable health care. We'll be fighting to make America energy independent. We'll be fighting to build a strong military and lead strong alliances, so young Americans are never put in harm's way because we insisted on going it alone.
I can't tell you how proud I am to have John Edwards on my team, or how eager I am for the day this fall when he stands up for our vision and goes toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney.
This is the most important election of our lifetime, and a defining moment in our history. With you by our side every day of this campaign, John and I will lead the most spirited presidential campaign America has ever seen, and fight to lead our nation in a new and better direction.