With a strong showing in Tuesday's coast-to-coast contests, Kerry could virtually clinch the Democratic nomination and turn his full attention to Bush. Here in California, the biggest delegate prize next week, polls show that Kerry has a commanding lead over Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), the only other major Democratic contender still in the race.
Hundreds of UCLA students lined up for hours Friday morning outside a campus auditorium to hear Kerry's speech, but many of them were turned away at the door.
Kerry began by saying that even if the United States captures Osama bin Laden before the November election -- which even Democrats say could greatly boost Bush's political standing -- the fight against terrorism will be far from over.
"This war isn't just a manhunt -- a checklist of names from a deck of cards," Kerry said. "We don't just face one man or one terrorist group. We face a global jihadist movement of many groups, from different sources, with different agendas, but all committed to assaulting the United States and open and free societies around the globe."
Kerry also said that the Bush administration has done little to prevent terrorism in one of its sources, poor Middle Eastern and Asian countries where many uneducated and jobless youths are growing up with hostility to the United States and are attracted to the overtures of terrorist groups. "Nothing else will matter unless we win the war of ideas," he said.
In advance of the speech, Kerry's campaign held a conference call with reporters that featured prominent Clinton administration officials from the National Security Council and the United Nations, but they were not allowed to be quoted on the record.
In the speech, Kerry referred dismissively to Bush's "doctrine of unilateral preemption." While Bush did articulate the possible use of a preemption option in his National Security Strategy, he does not use the word "unilateral."
Moreover, Kerry appeared to outline his own preemptive doctrine in the speech, saying he would "order direct military action" to capture and destroy terrorist groups. Bush's doctrine, as outlined in the strategy, said the United States must sometimes act preemptively "to forestall or prevent . . . hostile acts by our adversaries."
Kerry raised the possibility that North Korea and Iran might give terrorists weapons of mass destruction. Bush had made exactly this point when he warned of an "axis of evil" between terrorist groups and North Korea, Iran and the former government of Iraq.
Kerry faulted Bush for providing funding for the National Endowment for Democracy that he said "is less than 3 percent of what this administration gives Halliburton." Bush, however, has proposed to double the endowment's budget in the next fiscal year, and he has made the promotion of democracy in the "Greater Middle East" a key goal of his administration this year.
Kessler reported from Washington.