WASHINGTON – Super Tuesday proved to be a massive night for John Kerry (search) and the end of the road for John Edwards (search), but front-runner Kerry has already set his sights on a tough campaign against President Bush.
"Tonight, the message can now be heard all across our country: Change is coming to America," said Kerry, 60, a four-term Massachusetts senator whose understated ways disguise a hotly competitive streak. "We will fight to give America back its future and its hope."
The Massachusetts senator won nine out of the 10 Democratic contests for the presidential nomination, cleaning house in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island. Only in Georgia was the race somewhat close. The Associated Press reported that Kerry also won the Minnesota caucuses.
"Thank you to voters from coast to coast who have truly made this a super Tuesday," Kerry told a rousing crowd during his victory speech in Washington.
Kerry's landslide wins topped off an already 90-percent winning streak that forced his chief rival, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search), to drop out of the race. A formal announcement is expected on Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C.
In a late showing, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) won the race in his home state. Dean suspended his campaign two weeks ago, but remained on the ballot at home and kept his delegates from previous contests. Edwards was not on the ballot in Vermont.
Kerry congratulated Dean on his win and for influencing the race and energizing the Democratic Party ranks. He then said he was ready for a hard-core battle with President Bush.
"I'm a fighter," Kerry said, continuing his usual criticisms of the administration.
Kerry also called Edwards a "friend" and said, "he is a valiant champion of the values for which our party stands."
"I want to thank him so much for what he has done in the course of this race. I believe that in 2004, one united Democratic Party, we can and we will, win this election and we will build one America of freedom and of fairness for all," he said.
Even Bush acknowledged Kerry's near-sweep, calling him to congratulate him on "an impressive victory" and for winning the nomination against a tough field. He added that he looked forward to a "spirited race." The Massachusetts senator said he hoped the race stayed focused on the issues.
Tuesday's cross-country contests offered up 1,151 delegates. As of Tuesday, Kerry had about a 500-delegate lead over Edwards.
"The margins of victory tonight are astounding ... it's a sweep tonight and a massive sweep, according to the numbers," said Mort Kondracke, co-host of Fox News' The Beltway Boys.
Edwards' advisers were hoping to win enough delegates to keep the campaign on life support until the March 9 primaries in four Southern states — Edwards' backyard. To date, has has only won his native South Carolina.
Still, he continued to press on Tuesday night, in which he called his campaign the "little engine that could" run opposition to Kerry, whom he lauded in several remarks.
"He's run a strong, powerful campaign. He's been an extraordinary advocate for causes all of us believe in … these are the causes we will prevail on come November."
Edwards also told supporters that it is time to unite behind the party's nominee.
"This is the America that you and I believe in, this is the America that you and I will fight for … as Democrats come November — you and I together," he said.
What Voters Want
In Georgia, Edwards got 57 percent of the white vote, while Kerry got 62 percent of the black vote, according to exit polls conducted for Fox News and other media outlets by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
Edwards also received 52 percent of the support of independent voters, while 30 percent went to Kerry. Among Georgia voters, 67 percent voted for Kerry because he has the best chance to beat Bush, while 47 percent said they voted for Edwards because he's most like them.
In Ohio, Kerry led in almost all demographic categories. The wealthiest voters, however, went to Edwards. Kerry won the support of 52 percent of voters who said the economy and jobs were the most important issues, while 36 percent of those voters backed Edwards.
In Maryland, Kerry received 66 percent of the black vote, 65 percent of the liberal vote, 64 percent of the senior citizen vote and 66 percent support from those who said they're "angry" at the Bush administration.
Kerry: 'We're Going to Work Together'
Kerry continued to dispel the notion that he and Edwards don't get along.
"I like him, I respect him, and we're going to work together, one way or the other, no matter what," Kerry said.
Edwards has repeatedly said he isn't running for the No. 2 spot in the White House. Political observers are saying, however, that a Kerry-Edwards ticket would be an attractive one.
"No promises for the vice presidency right now but I think a good feeling all around," said Fox News political analyst Susan Estrich.
As to who may be Kerry's pick for a running mate come the Democratic conventions, Fox News political analyst and former Clinton political adviser Dick Morris said: "If Kerry is way behind [Bush], it will be Edwards or [retired Army Gen. Wesley] Clark, if it's close, it may be Hillary [Clinton]."
Sources told Fox News that Kerry busily worked the phones in his Senate office Tuesday, calling fund-raisers, organizers, special interest groups, and prominent Democrats. They said the Massachusetts senator was trying to mend fences with Democrats formerly supporting other candidates and to recruit support.
A top Kerry confidant told Fox News that Tuesday' marked an escalation in Kerry's personal involvement in unifying the party. Until now, Kerry left much of the work to his campaign while he focused on the primaries. But now that Super Tuesday has almost sealed his fate, sources said Kerry felt now was the appropriate time to begin to get personally involved in organizing a national campaign against Bush.
"Now, it's down to one, essentially, John Kerry, and the challenge for the Democrats is whether they're going to give him a mandate or they're going to give him a free license to take on Bush," independent candidate Ralph Nader told Fox News.
Kerry's 'Fire in the Belly'
Former President Bill Clinton and the Democratic National Committee sent a nationwide e-mail on Tuesday urging Democrats to donate and unify behind one candidate.
Kerry said there should be no doubt that he has the "fire in the belly" to spend the next eight months trying to oust Bush.
"Boy, wait until you see the fire in my belly. I didn't win 18 out of 20 caucuses and primaries so far because I don't have the fire in the belly," Kerry said before Tuesday's results were announced.
Whereas the Bush-Cheney re-election camp has over $140 million at its disposal to use on media blitzes, the DNC is planning a major multi-million dollar fundraiser to help Kerry at the end of this month.
"We always said whoever the Democrats nominate, we anticipated a tough election," Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman told Fox News. "The reason for that is the country is seriously divided" on issues like homeland security and the economy.
"What we're concerned about ... is his record in the United States Senate," Vice President Dick Cheney said in an interview with Fox News' Brit Hume. "He very clearly has over the years adopted a series of positions that indicate a desire to cut the defense budget, cut the intelligence budget, to eliminate many major weapons programs."
Fox News' Carl Cameron and Major Garrett contributed to this report.