Kerry Wins Democratic Contests in Idaho, Utah

Kerry Wins Democratic Contests in Idaho, Utah

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(By DAVID ESPO AP Special Correspondent) -- Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry scored lopsided victories in the Idaho caucuses and Utah primaries Tuesday, and looked for more good fortune in the Hawaii contest, the last before a climactic 10-state round next week.

Kerry outpaced North Carolina Sen. John Edwards 68 percent to 20 percent with more than half the results in from the Idaho race. With three-quarters of the precincts reporting from Utah, Kerry led Edwards 54-30.

The night's three races were little more than blips on the political calendar. The candidates are focused on the coming Super Tuesday prizes and Kerry is already looking beyond the nomination fight and tangling with President Bush.

The fourth-term Massachusetts senator fired back at Bush earlier in the day, depicting him as a "walking contradiction" who has presided over job losses, a deficit increase and frayed international alliances despite promises to the contrary.

Bush had opened up on him a day before in his most partisan remarks of the campaign. Edwards reminded the president that the race for the Democratic nomination is not over.

"Not so fast, George Bush," said Kerry's sole remaining major rival. "You don't get to decide who our nominee is."

Taken together, the exchanges underscored the state of the race for the White House -- Bush able to concentrate his energy on the general election, with Kerry eager to do the same and Edwards struggling to sustain his own candidacy.

Kerry, held a large and growing lead in the Democratic delegate chase, with 632 in the Associated Press count to 190 for Edwards, going into the night's three contests. A total of 61 delegates were at stake.

"We congratulate Senator Kerry and look forward to competing with him on Super Tuesday," said Edwards spokewoman Jenni Engebretsen. Edwards was in Houston, about to begin a three-day swing in California.

Officials printed 5,000 extra ballots in Salt Lake City to accommodate the demand. "Three blocks from Temple Square and there's a giant line of Democrats," said Blake Sarlow, waiting to vote. "It's the craziest thing."

A day after targeting Democrats, Bush used the White House as the backdrop for an appeal for passage of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages, a move certain to please his conservative Republican base.

"A few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization," said the president, referring to a recent court opinion in Kerry's home state of Massachusetts and a decision by city officials in San Francisco to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Both Kerry and Edwards promptly accused the president of playing politics with the Constitution -- a charge the White House denied. The two Democrats said they oppose gay marriage, but would vote against the amendment if it is brought before the Senate.

Neither Democratic contender campaigned in any of the three states, preferring to spend time and resources in the 10 delegate-rich states on next week's ballot. Increasingly, Edwards looked to Georgia and Ohio as well as upstate portions of New York to slow Kerry's rush toward the nomination.

Both men have committed to large advertising campaigns in the three states. Officials said during the day that Edwards had increased his commitment in Ohio, even though Kerry was continuing to outspend him there.

The Massachusetts senator was introducing a new commercial for use in Ohio and parts of New York, focused on the Republican in the White House. The commercial calls Bush's economic policy "an astonishing failure" and promises to protect American jobs.

"We need to be on the side of America's workers," Kerry says in the ad. "George Bush won't do it. I will."

The ad was released one day after Kerry said he would run a clean TV ad campaign if Bush's re-election team promised to do the same. The president's campaign is expected to begin running television commercials next week.

In his comments to reporters, Kerry was dismissive of Bush's criticisms.

"Last night was almost a fantasy speech about a world that doesn't exist for most Americans," he said. "The president talked about a prosperity that millions of Americans are not seeing, feeling or living."

On Monday night, Bush, without naming Kerry, ridiculed him as a politician who has held opposing positions on tax cuts, NAFTA, the war with Iraq and more.

Bush also sought to cast the election as a choice between "keeping the tax relief that's moving the economy forward, or putting the burden of higher taxes back on the American people."

"It's a choice between an America that leads the world with strength and confidence, or an America that is uncertain in the face of danger," the president said.

Jobs was a recurring refrain as Edwards and Kerry campaigned during the day, the front-runner in economically distressed northeast Ohio, and his pursuer in Georgia and Texas.

"Let the president come to Ohio and give a speech to the workers of Ohio about their real lives," said Kerry, who said the state has lost 270,000 jobs since Bush's inauguration. "Let the workers of Ohio hear from the president about how he's going to help them keep their jobs or find new jobs in an economy that's not creating jobs as fast as they are disappearing." On Wednesday, in Toledo, Kerry was picking up his latest endorsement, this one from former astronaut and retired Sen. John Glenn.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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