Kerry secures Democratic presidential nomination

Agence France Presse

Washington, March 3:

Senator John Kerry wrapped up the Democratic presidential nomination yesterday, chasing his sole major rival from the race and challenging George W Bush to "bring it on" for the November election.

The Massachusetts lawmaker forced Senate colleague John Edwards to abandon his bid for the nomination by taking nine of 10 party contests held from coast to coast on "Super Tuesday."

Kerry spoke by telephone with Edwards, received a congratulatory call from Bush and then threw down the gauntlet to the Republican incumbent in a victory speech to cheering supporters here.

"I believe that in 2004, one united Democratic Party, we can and we will win this election," he said. "Tonight, the message could not be clearer all across our country — change is coming to America."

Kerry ticked off a list of campaign promises, from repealing Bush tax cuts to health coverage and efforts to create new jobs. He again accused Bush of conducting an "inept, reckless arrogant and ideological foreign policy."

"If George Bush wants to make national security the central issue of the campaign of 2004, I have three words for him that I know he understands — bring it on!"

For the 60-year-old Kerry, a four-term senator and Vietnam war hero, the nomination capped a roller-coaster campaign that saw him go from front-runner to struggling underdog and back to the top again.

It also followed a remarkably blood-free primary election season for the Democrats, who whittled down a field of 10 and emerged unified and hungry for battle against an president whose popularity has dropped sharply.

Kerry had kind words for Edwards, 50, who has won praise for his courteous and unflaggingly positive campaign and has been touted as a possible vice-presidential candidate.

"There is no question that John Edwards brings a compelling voice to our party, great eloquence to the cause of working men and women all across our nation, and great promise for leadership for the years to come," he said.

But Kerry gave no indication of his choice for running-mate ahead of the Democratic national convention this July in Boston.

Edwards, who had been under increasing pressure to throw in the towel, was to officially announce his withdrawal today in North Carolina, which he represents in the Senate, campaign staffers said.