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‘Comeback Kerry’ lives up to his name

The victory of Sen. John Kerry further validated his reputation as a survivor in every sense, prevailing over the rigors of war, a bout with prostate cancer and the naysayers of his own party.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry celebrates his Super Tuesday victories with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, during a rally in Washington, D.C.Jim Bourg / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the five times-decorated Vietnam War veteran, all but written off as a contender for the White House as recently as January, continued his quest for the presidency Tuesday, capturing nine of 10 states in "Super Tuesday" voting.  

The victory of the craggy, 60-year-old senator further validated his reputation as a survivor in every sense, prevailing over the rigors of war, a bout with prostate cancer and the naysayers of his own party.

Even before the counting was done Tuesday, Kerry was already pivoting toward a general-election fight.

“Boy, wait until you see the fire in my belly,” he told a TV interviewer.

One example of Kerry was looking ahead to November was notable for a wry humor and an all-inclusiveness that seeked to span races and preferences: “President Clinton was often known as the first black president," Kerry told the American Urban Radio Network. "I wouldn’t be upset if I could earn the right to be the second.”

The 'E' word
In state after state, Democrats said their top priority was embodied in the 'E' word -- electability, the matter of choosing a candidate who could defeat a wartime president with a $100 million-plus campaign treasury. Kerry won an overwhelming number of their votes, and now leads a relatively united party against Bush.

“I am a fighter, and for more than 30 years I have been on the battle lines, on the front lines, for fairness and mainstream American values,” Kerry told cheering supporters in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, as he promised to close tax loopholes, offer new incentives for manufacturers, protect the environment, raise the minimum wage and cut health care costs.

Voters seemed comfortable with Kerry as the nominee: About eight in 10 voters said they would be satisfied if he won the Democratic race.

Broad spectrum of supporters
And his support came from across the landscape: from men and women, blacks, whites and Hispanics, and voters of all age and income groups, according to exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and TV networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

Edwards made U.S. trade agreements a centerpiece of his campaign, and exit polls show voters were sympathetic to his arguments: Some 60 percent said trade takes jobs from their states.
But even among these voters, some six in 10 voted for Kerry, double Edwards’ take.

Democratic interest groups, required to act independently of the Kerry camp, plan to soon air ads critical of Bush.

And a crowd of his supporters in Washington made feelings known about their priority issue, shouting with Kerry as he delivered what's become a signature line: “If George Bush wants to make national security the central issue of 2004, I have three words that I know he understands — Bring. It. On.”