IMAGE: Sen. John Kerry
Jeff Haynes  /  AFP - Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate and Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts speaks Saturday at a junior high school in Quincy, Ill.
updated 3/13/2004 5:00:42 PM ET 2004-03-13T22:00:42

John Kerry locked up the Democratic presidential nomination Saturday, reaching the magic number of delegates needed to become President Bush’s chief rival in the general election, according to an Associated Press tally.

The four-term Massachusetts senator reached the 2,162 delegate mark Saturday afternoon, the AP count found, just as Democrats in Kansas headed to party caucuses.

Amassing the required number of delegates was a mere formality for Kerry after his last main Democratic opponent, John Edwards, dropped out of the race following a disastrous showing on March 2, when 10 states held “Super Tuesday” contests.

“We’re certainly pleased to have as many delegates that we do, but John Kerry will continue to fight for as many votes as possible from now up until we arrive in Boston for the (Democratic) convention,” campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said.

‘Superdelgate’ support is key
Kerry hit the magic number early Saturday afternoon thanks to support from “superdelegates” — people who get a vote at the convention in July by virtue of their influence within the party.

Kerry had 2,000 delegates following his commanding wins in primaries in four Southern states last week. He picked up the last 162 needed through superdelegate endorsements and pledges to vote for him at the convention.

Superdelegates don’t have to abide by the results of the primary or caucus in their state, and can change their mind on who to support at any time.

There will be a total of 4,322 delegates at party convention, with nomination requiring the votes of a simple majority of at least 2,162, through any combination of pledged delegates gained in primaries and caucuses, and superdelegates.

The AP count is based on state and party rules, analysis of election results, and interviews with superdelegates. Support was counted only if the superdelegate could be contacted, either personally or through a representative.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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