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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 March, 2004, 12:03 GMT
Kerry wraps up Democrats contest
John Kerry celebrates Super Tuesday results with his wife Teresa in Washington
Vietnam veteran John Kerry has continued his strong showing
John Kerry is to become the Democratic challenger in the US presidential election this November after winning nine out of 10 "Super Tuesday" states.

Exit polls and first results showed him eclipsing his main rival, John Edwards, from New York to California.

Mr Edwards is expected to announce on Wednesday that he is quitting the race.

For the past 40 years no Democratic candidate, unless they were a sitting president or vice-president, has been able to claim the nomination so early.

President George W Bush phoned to tell Mr Kerry he anticipated a "spirited race" with him.

"We had a very nice conversation," said the Massachusetts senator, before condemning the incumbent's "inept" policies and promising to repair America's foreign partnerships, bringing it back into the "community of nations".

SUPER TUESDAY VOTE
Forecasts based on exit polls and first results


"The message could not be clearer," said Mr Kerry in his victory speech. "All across our country change is coming to America.

"I believe that in 2004 - with one united Democratic Party - we can and we will win this election."

Apart from New York and California, Mr Kerry won in Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Minnesota and - narrowly - Georgia.

Prior to the "Super Tuesday" polls, Mr Kerry had won 18 of the 20 states contested in the race for the nomination.

Mr Edwards, a North Carolina senator, has had one victory - in his native state of South Carolina.

In the one surprise of the night, Howard Dean, who had already abandoned his bid for the candidacy, won in Vermont by a margin of two to one. He previously served as governor there.

Tuesday's voters elected 1,151 delegates to the Democratic Party convention in July - a figure which represents 53% of the total number needed for a candidate to secure the nomination.

Vice-president?

Campaign sources who spoke to the AP and AFP news agencies said the end was in sight for Mr Edwards.

John Edwards rallies his supporters in Atlanta
Edwards has been putting a brave face on his losses

"I'm afraid it's true," said one. "He's dropped out. It looks like the end."

Mr Edwards earlier rejected the suggestion that he might run as Mr Kerry's vice-presidential candidate.

However, Mr Kerry hinted that he might consider his rival for the vice-presidency saying he had "great respect" for him.

In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was holding a victory rally to celebrate a separate vote on his controversial plan to save the state from financial ruin.

Californians appeared to have approved the issuing of a $15bn bond to pay off some of the state's huge debts.

Real battle begins

In his victory speech in Washington, Mr Kerry attacked President Bush's foreign policy as "the most inept, reckless, arrogant and ideological" in modern US history.

KEY CAMPAIGN DATES
9 March - Primaries in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas
26-29 July - Democrat national convention in Boston
30 Aug-2 Sep - Republican national convention in New York
2 Nov - Presidential election

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

He warned of the Republican party's "attack machine" but said his campaign was equal to the task.

Mr Bush is set to launch his own campaign on Thursday with a multi-million-dollar TV advertising campaign.

His message of congratulations to Mr Kerry was tempered by an appearance on television by Vice-President Dick Cheney, who condemned the senator's record.

"He very clearly has over the years adopted a series of positions that indicate a desire to cut the defence budget, cut the intelligence budget, to eliminate many major weapons programmes," he said.

Mr Cheney confirmed he would be running for vice-president again with Mr Bush.

DELEGATES ALLOTTED SO FAR
Most delegates who vote for a candidate at the national presidential nominating convention are allocated according to a candidate's support in state-wide caucuses or polls; some delegates are assigned for party leaders and elected officials to allocate.
SUPER TUESDAY RESULTS
Kerry Edwards Other
California 65% 20% 15%
Connecticut 58% 24% 17%
Georgia 47% 42% 12%
Maryland 60% 26% 15%
Massachusetts 72% 18% 10%
Minnesota 51% 27% 22%
New York 60% 20% 19%
Ohio 52% 34% 12%
Rhode Island 71% 19% 10%
Vermont 34% n/a 65%
Source: AP





WATCH AND LISTEN
John Kerry
"Our campaign is about building a fairer and more prosperous America"



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