John Kerry took a break at home Wednesday but described a campaign “on the move” after winning five state elections that built his lead in delegates in the race to select the Democratic nominee for president.
After spending a day in Boston, Kerry planned to visit Maine and Michigan, which hold weekend elections. He had watched the results Tuesday night in Washington state, which chooses delegates Saturday.
On Wednesday, the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest teachers’ union, endorsed Kerry. AFT, which counts 1.3 million members, is the Massachusetts senator’s largest union backer to date.
“At the heart of this campaign is our commitment to an America where the future is built on fairness for all, not privilege for the few,” Kerry said during a noisy rally Tuesday night in Seattle.
Already looking ahead and underscoring his argument that his campaign is bigger than a single state, Kerry hit the point again even as he congratulated North Carolina Sen. John Edwards for his victory in South Carolina.
“I compliment John Edwards, but I think you have to run a national campaign, and I think that’s the strength we have shown tonight,” Kerry said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Framing his pitch for the states yet to come, Kerry told his victory party, “Now we will carry this campaign and the cause of a stronger, fairer, more prosperous America to every part of America.”
On Tuesday, he sought to elevate his campaign beyond his rivals, beating back competitors in Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota, New Mexico and Arizona. Wesley Clark won Oklahoma.
'A huge night'
“It’s a huge night. I’m stunned by it. ... It shows strength across the country and across demographics,” Kerry told the AP. “It’s a statement by Democrats across the country that I am the candidate who can take on George Bush and beat him.”
Exit polls showed that in nearly every state, the ability to defeat President Bush was the No. 1 quality voters were looking for, and Kerry was the clear favorite of these voters. In Missouri, he won 75 percent of their votes; in Delaware, 70 percent. In most states, Kerry also was the favorite among those who were looking for a candidate who has the right experience.
“I know there are powerful interests on the other side — and the obstacles sometimes seem overwhelming,” Kerry said. “But I am ready for this mission.”
Besides congratulating Edwards, Kerry offered his condolences to Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who dropped out of the race after coming up winless again. His main target, however, was Bush.
'Bush ... has made America weaker'
“George Bush, who speaks of strength, has made America weaker — weaker economically, weaker in education and weaker in health care,” Kerry said. “Our opponents say they want to campaign on national security. We will not run from that debate — we welcome it.”
The executive council of the AFT voted to endorse Kerry because he “has demonstrated through a long and distinguished career of public service that he will be a strong voice for all Americans and that he has the knowledge, background and ability to move this nation forward,” AFT President Sandra Feldman said.
“We will begin immediately to mobilize our members on behalf of Senator Kerry’s campaign to achieve policies that will make a positive difference for our nation and all its citizens,” Feldman said.
AFT, roughly half the size of the National Education Association, has members in higher education, and also public employees and health care professionals.