After a four-state sweep that moved him closer to claiming the Democratic presidential nomination, John Kerry looked to cement ties with an important constituency and woo a vanquished rival.

Kerry was meeting Wednesday with workers at a Chicago contracting business before addressing, by satellite, top leaders of the AFL-CIO who are meeting this week in Bal Harbour, Fla.

The Massachusetts senator won the labor federation's endorsement last month and hopes to use labor's organizational muscle and money to boost his campaign. While labor's share of the work force has declined over the years, union members are reliable voters, with 26 percent of those casting ballots in the 2000 election coming from union households.

Afterward, Kerry heads to Washington for a much-anticipated sit-down with former rival Howard Dean.

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After a four-state sweep that moved him closer to claiming the Democratic presidential nomination, John Kerry looked to cement ties with an important constituency and woo a vanquished rival.

Kerry was meeting Wednesday with workers at a Chicago contracting business before addressing, by satellite, top leaders of the AFL-CIO who are meeting this week in Bal Harbour, Fla.

The Massachusetts senator won the labor federation's endorsement last month and hopes to use labor's organizational muscle and money to boost his campaign. While labor's share of the work force has declined over the years, union members are reliable voters, with 26 percent of those casting ballots in the 2000 election coming from union households.

Afterward, Kerry heads to Washington for a much-anticipated sit-down with former rival Howard Dean.

Officials familiar with talks between the two camps said Dean is prepared to endorse Kerry, campaign for him and ask his own contributors to donate to Kerry's campaign. If the meeting goes well, as expected, aides for Dean and Kerry would spend a week or so orchestrating an endorsement, the officials said.

Word of Dean's expected endorsement came on the latest in a string of good-news primary nights for Kerry, who in the next few weeks is expected to have won enough delegates to claim the Democratic presidential nomination.

Kerry swept Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana in voting Tuesday night, largely without major opposition. He won about 75 percent of the vote in Florida and Mississippi, and about two-thirds in the other states.

President Bush had a memorable night of his own, albeit with less suspense, when he crossed the necessary threshold of 1,255 delegates to wrap up the Republican nomination, according to an Associated Press count.

Speaking in downtown Chicago's Union Station to about 2,000 cheering backers, Kerry turned the table on Bush's claim that he offers "steady leadership" in trying times.

"George W. Bush is running on the slogan of steady leadership," Kerry said. "I think if you look at the last four years of failed policies, what you have is stubborn leadership."

Campaigning for ahead of the Illinois primary on March 16, Kerry said he'd welcome a debate every month with Bush and vowed to draw the sharpest of distinctions.

"This president doesn't have a record to run on, he has a record to run from" and so has already resorted to personal attacks, Kerry said.

"They don't want a great debate on the great issues," he added.

Kerry essentially locked up the nomination last week when rival John Edwards quit the race.

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rev. Al Sharpton, are both still challenging Kerry, though Sharpton failed to get on the Louisiana ballot.

Exit polls conducted for The Associated Press showed the economy was the top issue, with about four in 10 voters saying their own financial situation was worse than four years ago. As in earlier primaries, many were angry at Bush, especially in Florida, where his brother, Jeb, is governor, and in Texas, his home state, according to the surveys conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

Asked what the United States should do now in Iraq, four in 10 Democratic voters said Bush should withdraw all troops, and three in 10 said to withdraw some of them.

At stake in the four states Tuesday were 465 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July. An Associated Press analysis showed the senator with 1,816, but Kerry wasn't expected to reach the magic number of 2,162 until later this month because of the way the party allocates delegates.

In American Samoa, Kerry easily won with 83 percent of the vote to 17 percent for Kucinich of Ohio. The U.S. territory located about 2,300 miles south of Hawaii offered three