Rochester, Minn. — A crowd dotted with men in blue blazers, and women in straw summer hats crammed into a backyard in one of Rochester's most affluent neighborhoods. The invited group came to listen to presidential hopeful John Kerry talk about his vision for the country. Kerry says his plans for America are starkly different from those of his opponent George W. Bush. And according to Kerry the W says it all.
"W is really the single letter that is the symbol for this race for the presidency and W stands for wrong. Wrong choices, wrong direction and wrong leadership for this country," he said.
Kerry went on to talk about plans for reforming prescription drug laws and allowing Americans to legally purchase drugs from Canada. He says health care is at the top of his list.
"First moment I can introduce legislation to Congress, I promise you America that I am sending legislation that that will make health care affordable and accessible and that's the number one priority, the number one bill we're going to send to the congress of the United States," Kerry said.
He also pledged to introduce a revamped immigration policy within the first 100 days of office. And he promised to fully fund federal education mandates like No Child Left Behind.
Kerry told the crowd that if he's running the country, he'll emphasize international diplomacy over armed combat.
He urged the crowd to remember Minnesota's politically legacy using names like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Paul Welstone.
"You have a great history of progressive politics here in this state, you have a great history of bucking the trend but most of all you have a great history of common sense. You're able to pick and think," he said.
The Kerry event also attracted some George W. Bush supporters like Vickie Froehlich, who brought her own handmade sign. She says she collects children's books and was inspired the Dick and Jane series.
"My poster says see John. See John run. See John flip. See John flop. And I have a picture of John Kerry joined at the ears but he's facing two different ways and my sign also twirls, maybe he'll vote yes, maybe he'll vote no - it will be different tomorrow. And then I have a picture of George Bush and it says see George, see George win." A few yards away Kerry supporters gathered to talk about their candidate's visit. The group of Democrats seemed satisfied with what they heard. That includes Nina Sergeant, whose eyes welled up as she talked about Kerry. "I think he's full of content and good ideas and I think he has his ideas in the right place and I think we need to look forward with hope and not fear and that's what's Bush is all about," she said.
The crowds, police and Secret Service combined to create more activity than this quiet tree-lined street has seen in some time. With less than two months to go, Kerry and Bush are still neck-and-neck in Minnesota.
The campaign continues in Minnesota Thursday with a visit from first lady Laura Bush. She'll stump for her husband first at a rally in Duluth and later a private gathering in St. Paul.