YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio, Feb. 24 -- John F. Kerry won nominating contests in Utah and Idaho Tuesday, extending his dominance of the Democratic race as he accused President Bush of being a "walking contradiction" who routinely says one thing and does another.
Arguing that Bush had gone back on his word on the budget deficit, on education, on the environment and on foreign policy, the Massachusetts senator told workers at an aluminum factory near here: "There are more broken promises in the trail of this administration than any administration I've ever served with, and the president is trying to change the topic."
Kerry was responding to Bush's partisan speech to Republican governors Monday, in which the president lampooned Kerry as a waffling politician.
Instead of looking ahead to the general election, as Bush and Kerry had done, Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) tried to keep the debate focused on the Democratic nominating contest as he campaigned in Atlanta. "Today I have a message for someone in Washington: Not so fast, George Bush. You don't get to decide who our nominee is. You don't get to decide what this election is about." It was an echo of his remark to Kerry at the most recent Democratic debate.
Hawaii also held Democratic caucuses Tuesday, but the results were not available at press time. In Utah's primary, Kerry had 55 percent of the vote while Edwards had 30 percent, with 94 percent of the precincts reporting. The Idaho caucuses went 58 percent for Kerry and 21 percent for Edwards, with 93 percent of the precincts counted. There were 61 convention delegates at stake, but none of the three states drew attention from the candidates, both of whom were looking a week ahead to what could be a decisive showdown in the 10 states voting on the March 2 Super Tuesday.
Edwards is hoping to keep the race alive with at least one victory or more next week in states he considers favorable territory. These include Georgia, where he spent most of Tuesday in a bid for African American support.
Edwards spoke in Atlanta before the Coalition for the People's Agenda, a group of 40 African American advocacy organizations in Georgia, including Jesse L. Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Concerned Black Clergy. The Coalition for the People's Agenda, headed by civil rights advocate Joseph E. Lowery, has not endorsed a candidate for Tuesday's Georgia primary yet.
Edwards noted the presence at the meeting of former Georgia governor Roy Barnes, who is Edwards's state campaign chairman. While governor, Barnes became embroiled in a long controversy over removing the Confederate symbol from Georgia's state flag and was defeated in his reelection bid. Edwards, who has stressed the need to talk about race and racial divisions, said of Barnes: "This governor did it, and he paid the price."
In his Monday evening speech, Bush ridiculed Kerry for being on both sides of such issues as the Iraq war, the USA Patriot Act and the No Child Left Behind education accountability act.
But Kerry responded by saying the president has created a record of walking away from past positions. "I think the president is a walking contradiction and the president is the single biggest say-one-thing-and-do-another administration in the modern history in this country," he said.
Kerry said Bush's speech, which boasted of an improving economy powered by tax cuts, was "a fantasy speech about a world that doesn't exist," and he noted that the president had talked about a prosperity that "millions of Americans are not seeing, feeling or living." He challenged the president to "come to Ohio" and tell workers what he has done to make their lives better. "Let the workers of Ohio hear from the president about how he's going to help them keep their jobs or find new jobs in an economy that is not creating jobs as fast as they are disappearing," Kerry said.
He began Tuesday with what aides touted as a jobs tour through the Midwest with two campaign stops in Ohio, which has been hit hard by job losses during the Bush presidency. The Vindicator, the local paper here, carried a headline across the top of its front page Tuesday morning that said: "Staggering job loss." The article reported on a study for the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland that said the recession that began at the end of the Clinton administration has been a disaster for Ohio, particularly northeastern Ohio. From the second quarter of 2000 until the second quarter of 2003, the state lost more than 223,000 jobs.
On the drive from the Youngstown airport to his first event of the day, Kerry's motorcade passed mile after mile of shuttered factories and the detritus of what was one of the most thriving industrial areas in the United States.
It is these conditions that lead Democrats to hope they may be able to return Ohio, which went for Bush by nearly 4 percentage points in 2000, to the Democratic column this November. The total number of manufacturing jobs lost in Ohio between January 2001 and December 2003 (during the Bush administration) is 153,800. The unemployment rate as of December was 6.0 percent, above the national average of 5.7 percent. In January 2001, it was 3.9 percent, a little below the national average of 4.2 percent.
Kerry's campaign launched a new television ad in Ohio and upstate New York -- both places where Edwards is campaigning hard and hopes to be competitive -- to highlight job losses under Bush.
Farhi reported from Georgia. Staff writer John F. Harris and researcher Lucy Shackelford in Washington contributed to this report.