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The Race to the White House

Kerry Wins 9 of 10 States, Lauds Rival as a Champion of Values

March 03, 2004|Mark Z. Barabak and Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writers

John F. Kerry buried John Edwards on Tuesday in a California-to-New York landslide, sweeping nine of 10 states across the country and effectively clinching the Democratic presidential nomination six weeks after the balloting began.

Sen. Edwards of North Carolina will quit the field today in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C., party strategists said, bringing a close to one of the quickest and least contentious Democratic primary contests in decades.

The general election that follows is expected to be as close as it is bitterly fought.

In California, Sen. Kerry of Massachusetts rolled to one of his biggest victories of the day. With 71% of the votes counted, he was swamping Edwards 65% to 19%.

Kerry's only loss Tuesday came in Vermont, where ex-governor and former presidential hopeful Howard Dean scored a surprise victory. Kerry beat Edwards by a slim margin in Georgia.

Otherwise, he rolled up big victories, flattening Edwards not just in Kerry's home state of Massachusetts but also in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Ohio -- one of the states where Edwards campaigned hardest.

With his performance Tuesday, Kerry lifted his record to 27 victories in 30 contests, and ensured the rest of the Democratic primary season -- which lasts until early June -- will amount to little more than a victory lap around the nation.

A considerably tougher fight awaits Kerry in the general election, with President Bush poised to spend more than $150 million, a record, leading up to the party nominating conventions this summer.

Bush's first reelection ads begin airing Thursday in more than a dozen key states.

The voting Tuesday was a national primary of sorts, with balloting taking place in states representing a cross-section of America: in the political behemoths of California and New York, and in tiny Rhode Island; in the agricultural heartland and in the Deep South; in the nation's most urbanized centers and in rural hamlets.

At stake were 1,151 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July, or just over half of the total needed to win the nomination.

In California, as elsewhere, the issues of uppermost concern to Democratic primary voters were jobs and the economy. There was also a deep and abiding desire to oust Bush, with about one-third of those surveyed in California saying that was the main reason they voted for their candidate.

Kerry's California support ran strongly across the board -- and across all regions of the state -- with the Massachusetts senator beating Edwards by lopsided margins among men, women, blacks, whites, Latinos and older as well as younger voters.

In a brief pause in hostilities, Kerry and Bush spoke Tuesday evening after the president telephoned Kerry at the Old Post Office Pavilion, a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

Bush congratulated Kerry on his victory against "a tough field" and said he looked forward to "a spirited race," according to Scott Stanzel, a Bush campaign spokesman.

Kerry thanked the president for the call and said he hoped they could stick to a discussion of issues in the months to come.

A short time later, addressing nearly 1,000 exuberant supporters in the pavilion's bunting-draped food court, Kerry thanked voters "from coast to coast, who have truly made this a super Tuesday."

Then he went after Bush.

"My campaign, our campaign, is about replacing doubt with hope, and replacing fear with security," Kerry said, his tired voice occasionally breaking.

"Together, we are going to build a strong foundation for growth by repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and investing in education and healthcare, and we will cut the deficit in half in four years."

Saluting his last major rival, Kerry called Edwards "a valiant champion of the values for which our party stands." He delayed his remarks to ensure he did not preempt television coverage of Edwards' concession speech, as he had two weeks earlier.

Speaking to a small but enthusiastic crowd of about 150 supporters in Atlanta, Edwards called his own campaign "the little engine that could," saying his efforts had placed issues such as poverty, civil rights and race relations back at the fore of the Democratic agenda.

He went on to praise Kerry for his succession of victories, referring to him as "my friend."

"He's run a strong, powerful campaign," Edwards said. "He's been an extraordinary advocate for causes that all of us believe in: more jobs, better healthcare, a cleaner environment, a safer world. These are the causes of our party, these are the causes of our country and these are the causes we will prevail on come November."

Edwards said nothing of his intentions to quit the race. But even before he spoke, his next move was clear.

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