He won at least 67 percent of the vote in the four states with Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., coming in a distant second. Edwards dropped out of the race last week.
At a Chicago campaign appearance, Kerry said the southerners “voted for change.”
“I believe more than ever before this country is voting for leadership to take us in a new direction,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “George W. Bush won’t take us in that direction. I will.”
Kerry also took aim at the Bush campaign theme of steady leadership.
“I think it’s been what I’d call stubborn leadership, because he stubbornly insists on tax cuts as he steadily loses jobs in this country,” Kerry said.
Kerry told members of the AFL-CIO at their winter meeting Wednesday, via satellite hookup, that there really isn’t a middle class tax cut under Mr. Bush’s plan when considered in conjunction with his other economic policies.
President Bush, meanwhile, speaking at a business awards ceremony in Arlington, Va., described an economy that is improving under his watch.
“Inflation is low, interest rates are low, manufacturing is up,” he said. “Home ownership is at an all-time high. Stock prices are up. … The unemployment rate today is lower than the average rate in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s.”
Mr. Bush also took issue with Democratic calls for restrictions on free trade to protect American jobs from going overseas.
“There are economic isolationists in our country who believe we should separate ourselves from the rest of the world by raising up barriers and closing off markets,” he said. “They’re wrong. If we are to continue growing this economy and creating new jobs, America must remain confident and strong about our ability to trade in the world.”
President Bush, who is running unopposed, on Tuesday secured enough delegates after winning in the four Southern states to clinch the Republican nomination.
After Tuesday’s contests, Kerry has 1,816 delegates and is well on his way to securing the 2,162 needed to get the Democratic nomination, according to the Associated Press. He has won 27 of 30 state contests.
Kansas is holding the next Democratic primary on Saturday with 33 delegates at stake, followed by Illinois on Tuesday with 156 delegates up for grabs.
Kerry was planning to meet later this week with once rival candidate and former front-runner in the Democratic presidential race Howard Dean, but the meeting was not expected to produce an immediate formal endorsement, Reuters reported.
One of the remaining Democratic candidates, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, was expected to be released soon from a Cleveland hospital after being treated for a stomach ailment apparently brought on by food poisoning, his campaign said.
The other remaining candidate, the Rev. Al Sharpton, has hired the William Morris agency to represent him and was considering hosting a cable news or radio program or a reality TV program, his spokeswoman said, according to CNN.