After campaigning his way through Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania this week, Kerry arrived in his hometown in time to catch running mate John Edwards test his courtroom-honed Southern charm in a speech Wednesday night to convention delegates and a national TV audience.
As the party's choice for vice president, Edwards will "be talking both about the big themes of this campaign and optimism searching for a better tomorrow that this nation has always represented," the North Carolina senator's wife, Elizabeth told CBS News Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "He'll be talking a lot about Senator Kerry and the attributes that he brings and will bring to the office of the presidency.
"And he'll be talking about specifics of their plan to improve our safety and security and strength at home and abroad."
Aiming to infuse the Democrats' drive for the White House with youth and energy, Edwards will address delegates just before they begin the once-every-four-years roll call of states to make Kerry their White House nominee to challenge President George W. Bush in the Nov. 2 elections.
Watch the live webcast of Day 3 of the convention on CBSNews.com beginning at 4 p.m. EDT.
The convention concludes Thursday night with Kerry's acceptance speech, one Democrats are counting on to boost his standing with voters.
Kerry made a splashy entrance to the convention city aboard a white ferry decorated with red, white and blue bunting that lumbered across Boston's inner harbor, flanked by Coast Guard speed boats mounted with machine guns. In 1773, American colonists dumped tea into the harbor to protest a British tax, an incident that led to the outbreak of the American Revolution two years later.
The ferry cruised past the Fleet Center convention site to the Charlestown Navy Yard as Kerry stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a dozen members of the Navy swift boat he commanded in Vietnam, along with Jim Rassmann, a Special Forces soldier whose life Kerry saved. Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" blared from speakers as the ferry pulled into the dock.
"Bruce Springsteen has it right. No retreat. No surrender. We are taking this fight to the country, and we are going to win back our democracy and our future," Kerry told the crowd greeting his arrival at the navy yard. "We are taking this fight to the country and we are going to win back our democracy and our future."
As his plane arrived at Boston's Logan Airport, the Massachusetts senator told reporters he felt "great, ready to go, pumped" and promised his acceptance speech will be a surprise.
Edwards' speech follows two days in which some of the Democratic Party's best and brightest praised Kerry with stories of his Vietnam service while criticizing Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.
On Tuesday, Kerry cited his qualifications to be commander in chief and asserted, "I will and I can fight a more effective war on terror than George Bush is."
In California, Vice President Dick Cheney said Kerry and Edwards both voted yes for war, but against subsequent funding for the troops. "We need a president who will back our troops 100 percent, and that's exactly what we've got in George W. Bush," the vice president said.
Kerry is even or slightly ahead of Bush in many pre-convention polls. At the same time, a new Washington Post-ABC poll showed that more than half those surveyed said they knew only a little or hardly anything at all about the Massachusetts senator's positions on issues.
And after months of sustained Republican television attacks on Kerry, more than 40 percent called him too liberal on most issues.
Two days into the convention, police reported that no protesters had been arrested, despite predictions that there would be thousands. Officials said bomb squads had responded to about 30 calls of unattended or suspicious bags and packages since Sunday.
Republicans, in Boston to counter the Democrats' anti-Bush rhetoric, ridiculed Kerry for shifting positions on Iraq. They planned to unveil an 11-minute video Wednesday that captures Kerry's changing positions on Iraq since 2001.
In her first big political speech, the candidate's wife, , who is of Portuguese descent and was born in Mozambique, sought to shield him from that accusation, saying his positions on the environment and other issues were just common sense. She took her own jabs at Bush, describing her husband as a fighter who earned three Purple Heart medals for being wounded in combat "the old-fashioned way, by putting his life on the line for his country."
Bush served stateside during Vietnam; Kerry volunteered for combat.
"No one will defend this nation more vigorously than he will," Heinz Kerry said of her husband in her Tuesday night speech to the convention.
It was critical that Heinz Kerry help Democrats better understand something of her husband's values, and as CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports, also, to share a glimpse into her own beliefs.
She spoke of being born in Mozambique under a dictatorship and women who still live in fear of speaking out.
"I have a very personal feeling about how special America is, and I know how precious freedom is," said Heinz Kerry, who joined anti-apartheid marches. "It is a sacred gift, sanctified by those who have lived it and those who have died defending it."
, the aging liberal icon whom Republicans happily link to Kerry, accused Bush of wasting the "enormous goodwill that flowed to America from across the world" after the Sept. 11., 2001, terrorist attacks.
But some of the biggest applause of the night came for Illinois Senate hopeful Barack Obama, who described Kerry as a war hero who has long made "tough choices when easier ones were available."
Without mentioning Bush by name, Obama said the president had failed to level with the public before ordering troops into Iraq. If elected in November, Obama — whose father was Kenyan and mother American — would become the Senate's only black member, and only the fifth black senator in U.S. history.
Edwards, who has an up-from-the-bootstraps story to tell, arrived in Boston on Tuesday afternoon after he and his wife visited the grave of their son, Wade, who was killed at age 16 in an automobile accident in 1996.
Born to parents who labored in the mills of his native South Carolina, Edwards became a self-made millionaire after two decades as one of the country's most successful trial lawyers.
CBSNews.com producer Jarrett Murphy reports jobs, health care and education were at the top of North Carolina delegates' recommendations to Edwards as he tries to attract swing voters nationwide — and even in his home state.
"Just keep bringing the word home about jobs and the economy, and make it personal," was Larry Townsend's advice to the senator. The tribal officer from North Carolina added that Edwards should make it clear that "everybody has a stake in this election."