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Kerry Urges Strong Voter Turnout in Florida - 2004-10-17

Democrat John Kerry took his presidential campaign to the southern state of Florida Sunday. President George Bush narrowly won Florida four years ago and recent public opinion polls show the race there this year is a dead heat.

Florida is one of the states that permits early voting, which begins this week in advance of the November 2nd election.

Senator Kerry spoke at an outdoor rally in South Florida where he urged his supporters to get out and vote as soon as possible, mindful of the disputed election in Florida four years ago that put George Bush in the White House. "I need your votes, not for me, not for John Edwards, but for you and for our country, because we have to lift this nation up!"

Florida is home to one of the nation's largest populations of retirees. Senator Kerry took the opportunity to seize on a report in The New York Times newspaper that quoted President Bush as saying he would push for government pension reform by privatizing Social Security if he wins a second term.

The White House said the story was inaccurate. But the president has advocated allowing people to privatize their Social Security retirement accounts as a way of building wealth.

Senator Kerry said the Bush plan would be a disaster for America's middle class. "I will never privatize Social Security. I will never cut the benefits and I will not raise the retirement age [when people are eligible to get benefits]," he said.

The Kerry campaign got a boost Sunday when The New York Times endorsed the Massachusetts Democrat for president, saying he had "the makings of a great chief executive." Senator Kerry was also endorsed by the Boston Globe in his home state of Massachusetts.

President George Bush also picked up some major endorsements Sunday, winning the backing of the Chicago Tribune and the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado.

With a little more than two weeks to go until Election Day, both campaigns are mounting a furious last-minute push for votes in a handful of states, including Florida, where the race could go either way.