Massachusetts Senator John Kerry continued his winning ways Tuesday in the battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Senator Kerry won convincing victories in Virginia and Tennessee, and appears almost unstoppable in his quest to become the Democrat to face President Bush in the November election.
Senator Kerry easily outpaced his rivals in both Virginia and Tennessee, his first victories in the South. He has now won 12 of 14 Democratic primaries and caucuses, and he is the clear front-runner for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.
"Once again, the message rings out loud and clear," Mr. Kerry told supporters after Tuesday's victories. "Americans are voting for change. East and west, north, and now in the south. And I am grateful for that."
Retired General Wesley Clark finished a disappointing third in both of the Tuesday primaries. His spokesman says General Clark will officially announce his departure from the presidential race Wednesday.
General Clark spoke to supporters in Tennessee after Tuesday's results became clear. "I want to thank you for your support," he said, "for standing by me, and for working so hard to take the White House back to our rightful owners, the American people."
But another of Senator Kerry's rivals is staying in the race, at least for now. North Carolina Senator John Edwards finished second in both Virginia and Tennessee and hopes that General Clark's departure from the race will help him.
"Thank all of you, all of you, the voters who voted in the election today, for saying to the country that we are going to have a campaign and an election, not a coronation," he said, speaking to supporters in Wisconsin, site of the next primary on Tuesday.
Both Senator Edwards and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean will be campaigning hard in Wisconsin in an attempt to stop Senator Kerry's momentum.
But an increasing number of senior Democrats are urging the remaining candidates to rally behind Senator Kerry as the best hope of defeating president Bush in November.
Voter exit surveys from Virginia and Tennessee indicated many Democrats were swayed by Senator Kerry's argument that he would be the strongest opponent to the president in the election.