CLEVELAND – Fresh from three more easy victories in the Democratic presidential race, John Kerry (search) looked to a fight with President Bush over jobs lost to foreign countries.
Kerry defeated Sen. John Edwards (search) by large margins in Utah and Idaho, and also won in Hawaii, where Edwards ran third. That gave Kerry 18 wins in 20 contests.
The two leading candidates bypassed the three states to focus on the huge delegate prizes at stake when 10 states vote next week on Super Tuesday.
Two weeks after the president's chief economic adviser described the shipping of American jobs abroad as "just a new way of doing international trade," Kerry was announcing his plan to address that situation.
Although Kerry frequently tells audiences that no president can stop companies from leaving the country, the Massachusetts senator said he will require companies that ship jobs offshore to disclose their plans to the government.
"Companies will no longer be able to surprise their workers with a pink slip instead of a paycheck -- they will be required to give workers three months notice if their jobs are being exported offshore," Kerry said in a speech prepared for delivery Wednesday in Toledo, where he also was picking up an endorsement from former astronaut and retired Sen. John Glenn (search).
Kerry said that during the three years Bush has been in office, 270,000 workers have lost their jobs in Ohio, site of one of the 10 nominating contests on Super Tuesday. He is looking for a decisive victory that day to bring an end to the campaign of his last remaining major rival, Edwards.
Kerry was spending Wednesday in Ohio and Minnesota, and was to launch a new campaign ad in the Buckeye State in which he describes Bush's economic policy as "an astonishing failure" and promises to protect U.S. jobs. The commercial, which also was to run in upstate New York, was meant to soften criticism of Kerry's vote for a free-trade pact as he campaigns in states that have been hit hard by job losses.
Edwards was campaigning across California.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich finished in single digits in Idaho and Utah, but ran second in Hawaii.
Counting returns from Tuesday's contests, Kerry's lead in the Democratic delegate chase swelled to 663 in the Associated Press tally, with Edwards at 199, Al Sharpton 16 and Kucinich eight. Nomination requires 2,162 delegates.
A total of 61 pledged delegates were at stake in the night's races. Of the longshot hopefuls, Sharpton failed to win any delegates, though Kucinich finally pocketed his first pledged delegates, winning six in Hawaii.
His options running short, Edwards looked to Georgia, Ohio and upstate portions of New York to slow Kerry's rush toward the nomination.
The North Carolina senator has been appealing to voters in communities that have suffered job losses by criticizing Kerry's support for free trade. But both Democratic candidates have put the bulk of the blame for unemployment on Bush.
In his speech, Kerry says Bush lavished special favors on corporations while workers lost their jobs, their pensions and their retirement savings.
"Here's what I'm going to tell our corporate leaders: We will give you all the help you need to create new jobs and strengthen our economy," Kerry said. "But if I'm president our government won't provide a single reward for shipping our jobs overseas, or exploiting the tax code to go to Bermuda to avoid paying taxes while sticking the American people with the bill."
Kerry said he will require companies that plan to outsource jobs overseas to inform the affected workers, the Labor Department, state agencies responsible for helping laid off employees and local government officials. The Labor Department would be required to compile statistics of jobs sent offshore and report them on an annual basis to Congress.
Kerry's speech is part of the beginning of a possible general election fight between the Democratic front-runner and the incumbent president. Bush opened his case against Kerry this week in his most partisan remarks of the campaign, although Edwards reminded the president that the race for the Democratic nomination is not over.
"Not so fast, George Bush," Edwards said Tuesday. "You don't get to decide who our nominee is."