FAIRFAX, Va. – John Kerry (search) accepted his twin victories Tuesday night by looking toward a fight with the president, declaring that "the wreckage of the Bush economy can be seen all around us."
Kerry's wins in Virginia and Tennessee, his first in the South, completed his electoral puzzle by adding to his domination in every other region of the country.
While his remaining rivals scrambled for a last-ditch strategy to stop him in Wisconsin, site of the next big test, Kerry was retreating to his Washington home for two days of rest, secure in his front-runner status. He returns to the campaign trail Friday with stops in Wisconsin, where his opponents are awaiting a showdown in that state's primary next Tuesday, and Nevada, which holds caucuses on Saturday.
"We will fight for every vote and we will carry our cause all across this land," Kerry said in a speech at George Mason University (search).
Kerry pledged to take it "one step at a time," first sealing up the nomination and then targeting Bush. But he focused more than half of his acceptance speech Tuesday night on the president.
"George Bush, who speaks of strength, has made America weaker -- weaker economically, weaker in our health care, weaker in education. And the truth is that he has made us weaker militarily by overextending the armed forces of the United States," he said.
Kerry, labeled a Massachusetts liberal by GOP foes, called his victories an example of his cross-country appeal. Kerry blew away two Dixie-bred rivals, John Edwards (search) of North Carolina and Wesley Clark (search) of Arkansas.
"What we showed today is the mainstream values that I've been talking about, fairness and hope and hard work and love of country, are more important than boundaries and birthplace," Kerry said.
Kerry's strong suit was among voters who thought it was most important to have a candidate who could win in November -- getting two-thirds of that group in Tennessee and three-fourths in Virginia, according to Associated Press exit polls.
Kerry also performed well with black voters, a key Democratic Party constituency. He got almost two-thirds of the black vote in Virginia and about half of that vote in Tennessee -- leading the field in both states. Among white voters, he wasn't as strong -- getting just over four in 10 in both states. That won the white vote, but by a narrow margin.
Kerry also did better among those with less education, lower incomes and those who are Democrats. He was strongest among those who are angry at or dissatisfied with Bush, getting the support of half of the angry voters and six in 10 of those who are dissatisfied.
"Once again, the message rings out loud and clear," Kerry said. "Americans are voting for change -- East and West, North, and now in the South."
He said it's not up to him to decide whether his rivals should drop out, and he declined to say what message Bush should take from his victorious Tuesday.
"I think it would be presumptuous for me to make that determination. I'm just trying to focus on winning the nomination, and you take it one step at a time," Kerry said. "I've said that each time. I'm on to Wisconsin and I'm on to Nevada."