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Published: Wednesday, 3/3/2004

‘Jobs tour' takes Kerry to victory in Ohio

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry marched his presidential juggernaut through the Midwest yesterday, trouncing his competitors in Ohio and essentially locking up the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Kerry victory here was a landslide, despite the concentrated efforts of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who made several stops during three recent campaign swings through Ohio, focusing on the need to change trade and tax policies to improve the economy, particularly the sputtering manufacturing sector.

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards both bemoaned the loss of manufacturing jobs during their stops in Toledo, Cleveland, Youngstown, Columbus, and Dayton - urban centers where large blocs of Democratic voters are found.

Throttled in the 10-state Super Tuesday elections, Mr. Edwards is expected to announce this afternoon that he will leave the race for the nomination.

Mr. Kerry was winning with 50.6 percent of the vote in Ohio, compared to 37.3 percent for Mr. Edwards, and 6.4 percent for Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

The strong Kerry showing in Ohio sets the stage for a competitive general election battle here against President Bush, who won the state by just 3.7 percent four years ago, despite the decision by Democrat Al Gore to abandon the state in the last three weeks before the 2000 election.

The state is vitally important. No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio.

Banking on the premise that the loss of more than 250,000 jobs in Ohio since Mr. Bush took office would make the economy a top issue here, Mr. Kerry made several appearances across the state's northern tier last week on what he called a “jobs tour,” which included pledges to fix problems with the North American Free Trade Agreement, among other things.

Speaking to supporters last night, Mr. Kerry revisited those themes he developed in Ohio.

“We will repeal every tax break and every loophole that rewards any corporation for gaming the tax code to go overseas and avoid their responsibilities to America,” he said. “We will provide new incentives for manufacturing that reward good companies for creating and keeping good jobs here at home.

“We will fight for worker and environmental protections in the core of every trade agreement - and we will raise the minimum wage because no one who works 40 hours a week should have to live in poverty in America,” he said, echoing a line straight from Mr. Edwards' campaign stump speech.

Mr. Kerry showed strength consistently throughout the state, winning 17 of 18 congressional districts, which is how the state's delegates to the Democratic National Convention are awarded. He lost only in the 16th District in northeast Ohio, just south of Cleveland.

Mr. Edwards won the 16th District with 49.5 percent of the vote, compared to 39.2 percent for Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Kerry's best showing was in the Cincinnati area, where he won 66 percent support, compared to just 18 percent for Mr. Edwards.



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