Kerry Predicts a Bush Defeat, in Rhyme
By MIKE GLOVER
The Associated Press
Monday, February 2, 2004; 3:01 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M - A confident John Kerry, settings his sights on President Bush, vowed on Monday to stand up to Republican efforts to portray Democrats as weak on national security, arguing that the GOP spreads "the culture of fear."
"I predict today, like father like son, one term only, Bush is going to be done," the Democratic presidential contender boldly predicted at a rally at the University of New Mexico with about 300 backers.
Riding high following back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire - and upbeat about his prospects in seven states Tuesday - Kerry was largely ignoring his Democratic rivals to focus on the Republican incumbent. The decorated Vietnam War veteran sought to make the case that among the Democratic hopefuls, he was best qualified to answer the GOP on national security.
"That's what they do best is spread the culture of fear," the four-term Massachusetts senator said. "I'm not going to let them put the Democratic Party or any American on the defensive about asking legitimate questions about how we make our nation strong."
Opinion polls show Kerry with solid leads in five of the seven states and competitive in two more, Oklahoma and South Carolina. His chief rival in the first-in-the-South primary is North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who on Monday criticized Kerry's acceptance of contributions from lobbyists, his record on trade and his years as a Washington politician. Howard Dean also assailed Kerry about donations from lobbyists.
Countering the special interest criticism, Kerry was joined on the campaign trail by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who has captured national headlines for his battles against Wall Street.
In an interview, Spitzer said of Kerry: "With his long record of standing up for all Americans against special interests, John Kerry is the best candidate for president."
Kerry also earned the endorsement of several labor unions and congressional Democrats, a reflection of the party establishment moving toward the front-runner.
The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 150,000 workers in 29 government agencies, said it was endorsing Kerry because of his steadfast support for federal employees. The Sheet Metal Workers International Association, which represents about 150,000 skilled craftspersons in the unionized sheet metal industry, also formally endorsed the Massachusetts senator.
Added to his other organized labor endorsements, Kerry now has the support of unions representing more than 1.3 million workers. On Sunday, he won the backing of the United Farm Workers union, which could give Kerry crucial support among Hispanics, a key constituency in New Mexico and Arizona.
Washington state holds caucuses Saturday, and Kerry planned to head there and await returns Tuesday night, shifting his focus to the next round. Before his visit, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell endorsed Kerry. He also earned the support of Colorado Rep. Mark Udall, the 34th member of Congress to endorse him.
Kerry was joined by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has not endorsed a candidate in the primary but whose presence was a boost for Kerry among Hispanics, a key constituency.
Associated Press Writer Marc Humbert in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Associated Press