Kerry is now widely believed to have a clear path to the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Kerry won large victories in all of the major states holding contests, including New York and California, the states with the largest number of Democratic delegates.
“I thank voters coast to coast who have truly made this a ‘Super Tuesday,'” Kerry said in a speech to supporters.
“Tonight the message could not be clearer all across our country, change is coming to America,” Kerry added.
In an upbeat speech Tuesday night Edwards congratulated Kerry and pledged to continue to work to defeat President George W. Bush in the general election. Edwards will reportedly announce the official end of his candidacy in a speech from North Carolina on Wednesday.
“I am proud of what we have done together,” Edwards told his supporters.
“Race, equality, civil rights, poverty, all these issues that the American people care deeply about, we have touched their souls again,” Edwards added.
Kerry said Edwards’ speech was “a remarkably gracious, powerful, generous statement,” and called the North Carolinian a “valiant champion for the values on which our party stands.”
Edwards ran second to Kerry in nearly every Super Tuesday state.
However, Vermont’s former Gov. Howard Dean, who stopped actively campaigning last month, handily won his home state, defeating Kerry. Edwards’ name did not appear on the ballot in Vermont.
“I want to thank the great people of Vermont tonight who overwhelmingly endorsed our campaign for change. This win means so much to me,” Dean said in a statement. “Two years ago, I entered this race to talk about health care, children, and to demand change and leadership in our party. This party and this country still need change, and tonight you have helped further that process.”
As expected, Kerry won his home state of Massachusetts by a wide margin, but he also won Ohio and Georgia, states where Edwards had campaigned hard in an attempt to reach out to rural voters and fellow southerners.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York, widely seen as long-shot candidates, failed to pull off any surprise showings, finishing no better than third in any race.
Candidates competed for 1,151 delegate votes on Tuesday, which comprise 27 percent of the total available votes and more than half of the 2,162 needed to sew up the nomination. Kerry will earn the largest share of those delegate votes, which are awarded proportionally.
Kerry’s continued success and Edwards’ departure means the field is likely cleared for a head-to-head matchup between Kerry and President Bush.
The president reportedly congratulated Kerry in a phone call Tuesday night and told the Democratic candidate “I’m thinking about you.”
Kerry said he and President Bush “had a very nice conversation”, adding that he told the president that he hopes to “have a great debate about the issues before the country.”
But the presumptive nominee also warned of “long months of efforts and challenges” ahead and said he was prepared to take on the “Republican attack machine,” which he said would target him as it had other Democratic candidates in the past.
“We are equal to the task,” Kerry said. “I am a fighter.”
As he has done throughout the campaign, Kerry also sharply criticized President Bush and reeled off a long list of campaign pledges.
Among other things Kerry said he would repeal Republican tax cuts, invest in education and healthcare, reduce the federal deficit by half, create 500,000 jobs, reform the tax code, punish corporations that move overseas, provide incentives for companies to create manufacturing jobs in the United States, raise the minimum wage, make America energy independent, establish healthcare as a right for all Americans, protect Medicare and Social Security, build new international alliances, and reverse President Bush’s “reckless” foreign policy.
Using an oft-repeated campaign slogan, Kerry challenged President Bush to “bring it on” with regard to foreign policy, which Kerry claims as one of his strengths.
In his speech Kerry predicted a general election victory.
“We will win this election and we will build one America of freedom and fairness for all,” Kerry said.