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Victorious Kerry turns to face Bush

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Victorious Kerry turns to face Bush


NBC, MSNBC and news services

Updated: 9:19 p.m. ET March 03, 2004Having landed a ?Super Tuesday? haymaker that knocked his chief rival out of the Democratic presidential race, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts quickly shifted his attention to his November opponent, telling supporters that he had three words for President Bush: ?Bring it on!?


Kerry indicated Wednesday that he would soon start the process of selecting a vice presidential running mate.


Many Democratic officials have speculated that his best choice would be Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who formally withdrew from the presidential race Wednesday afternoon. Aides said Edwards, who surged in early contests on the strength of a positive message and a refusal to attack his opponents, would not turn Kerry down if he approached him to be No. 2 on the ticket.


?Those of you who cast your votes for me cast your votes for a new kind of politics,? Edwards told supporters Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C. ?You wanted a positive campaign, and you got one for a change.?


Kerry and Bush spoke after Tuesday?s results were known, with the president calling with congratulations. ?You had an important victory tonight,? Bush told Kerry, adding that he looked forward to a ?spirited fight.?


A Democratic source said Kerry thanked the president and responded that he hoped ?we can have a real debate on the issues, and I hope we will both serve our country the best we can.?


But the two were also preparing to do battle. Bush was set to formally engage Kerry on Thursday with the launch of his first television ads in 17 battleground states.


Kerry's first campaign stop Wednesday was Florida, the site of the historic recount election that gave Bush the presidency in 2000. At a town hall meeting in Orlando, he picked up the endorsements of both of Florida?s senators, Bill Nelson and Bob Graham, who gave up on his own presidential bid, and told the cheering crowd that he was ready to ?change America for the better."


Although he did not formally claim victory Tuesday night at a rally in Washington, Kerry thanked the voters, who he said had ?truly made this a Super Tuesday.? He promised: ?We can and we will win this election.?


The crowd shouted along with him as Kerry delivered his signature line, pausing between each of the last words: ?If George Bush wants to make national security the central issue of 2004, I have three words that I know he understands: Bring it on!?


Kerry also extensively praised Edwards, calling him ?a valiant champion of the values for which our party stands.?


?There is no question that John Edwards brings a compelling voice to our party, great eloquence to the cause of the working men and women of America, and great promise of leadership for the years to come,? Kerry said.


In all regions and among practically all groups, voters interviewed about their choice in Tuesday?s 10 nominating contests spoke of making the same political calculation ? they picked Kerry because they thought he could defeat the president.


That imperative helped him win in states such as Ohio, Minnesota and Georgia, even though Kerry ? unlike Edwards ? backed trade agreements that voters blamed for costing their communities jobs.


Kerry was denied a 10-for-10 sweep Tuesday only because former Gov. Howard Dean, the onetime front-runner whose campaign imploded after disappointing showings in the early contests, finally won his first contest, at home in Vermont.


Although he dropped out of the race last month, Dean remained on the ballot in Vermont and easily beat Kerry, with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Kerry had led Dean in final opinion polls, but Dean benefited from Edwards? failure to get on the ballot in Vermont, eliminating the chance that anti-Kerry voters would be split.


Dean was low-key about the victory, releasing a statement thanking the voters. He told reporters at a basketball game at the University of Vermont, ?I'm not going to get back in it, but I think having some delegates is great.?

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