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Kerry strolls to double victory

kerry Kerry has established a dominant position Senator John Kerry won easy victories in the latest state caucuses to find a Democrat challenger to PresidentBush.

Mr Kerry secured about 50% of the vote in Washington state and Michigan, beating Howard Dean into second place.

With nine wins from the first 11 primaries and caucuses, Mr Kerry's victory speech largely ignored his five rivals for the nomination.

"George Bush's days are numbered, and change is on its way," he told a Democratic dinner in Virginia.

But two Kerry rivals, Wesley Clark and John Edwards, did not target Washington, focusing instead on southern polls on Tuesday.

The BBC's Rob Watson, in Washington, says they are trying to make the case to the Democratic Party faithful that the nominee cannot win a presidential election without doing well in the South.

But opinion polls there suggest Mr Kerry will do well in both Virginia and Tennessee where voters go to the polls in two days.

One-time front-runner Howard Dean has said he will withdraw from the race if he does not win the Wisconsin ballot on 17 February.

But there was fresh woe for the former Vermont governor's campaign after the head of a major union - the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - withdrew his support on Saturday.

Campaign boost

Mr Kerry's victories lengthened his lead over his rivals in the number of delegates pledged to vote for him at the party's convention.

His showing swelled his total to 411, with Dean at 175, Edwards at 116 and Clark at 82.

Michigan had 128 delegates at stake in caucuses, and Washington offered another 76. Maine, with 24 delegates at stake, holds caucuses on Sunday.

On Friday, Mr Kerry's campaign was boosted when he received the backing of former party rival Dick Gephardt.

Observers suggest that Mr Gephardt's political network and close links with trade unions can only help Mr Kerry in states such as Michigan, which has a strong industrial base and has suffered job losses.

Tuesday challenges

But Mr Kerry's opponents want to keep the race alive, at least until next month's "Super Tuesday" when more than half of the 2,162 delegates needed to ensure victory can be won.

North Carolina senator John Edwards, who has only won one primary so far, vowed to stay in the race until he won his party's nomination.

"I'm in it until I'm the nominee," he told reporters in Memphis, before heading north to Wisconsin. "I have always viewed this as a long-term race to the nomination."

Vietnam war veteran Mr Kerry said on Saturday he was looking forward to the fight in the southern states.

"I'm not worried about coming down South and talking to people about jobs and schools and health care and the environment," he told supporters at a rally at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

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