Kerry celebrates win with music, kisses

Election 2004 -- Super Tuesday

March 03, 2004|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - As a near-sweep of wins knocked out his final remaining rival for the Democratic nomination for president, Sen. John Kerry basked in the thunderous adulation of a winner last night, pumping his fists and telling his audience he was a fighter who was ready for the "long months of effort and of challenge" before him.

"Tonight, the message could not be clearer all across this country," Kerry told hundreds of cheering supporters. "Change is coming to America."

Joined on a stage by his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, his two daughters and a stepson, Kerry stopped short of uttering the word nominee, but he left no doubt he was thrilled to have the primary battle behind him and a one-on-one with President Bush now clearly in his sights.

Wiping lipstick from his mouth after a kiss from his wife, he smiled playfully, then thanked "voters from coast to coast who have truly made this a super Tuesday."

Hundreds of Kerry backers packed shoulder-to-shoulder into the first floor and mezzanine of the cavernous Old Post Office Pavilion - a historic government building-turned-shopping galleria decked out for the occasion with flags, bunting and Kerry banners - nearly giddy knowing that the primary season was about to end with their candidate on top.

They interrupted his words with shouts of "Kerry! Kerry!" and waved signs demanding "Bring It On."

As the crowd mushroomed, an elegant live jazz combo playing such tunes as "Girl from Ipanema" gave way to loud and raucous piped-in rock music, with "Beautiful Day" by U-2 and Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" leading up to Kerry's long-awaited entrance.

"Tonight is the official crowning of John Kerry," said Matt Grieger, a George Washington University student. "I'm excited to be here for this historic night."

Kerry's election night party was as close to a victory celebration as it could be with the Massachusetts senator still hundreds of delegates away from officially securing the nomination. He praised his Democratic opponent Sen. John Edwards, expected to bow out of the race today, calling him a "valiant champion of the values for which our party stands."

And he congratulated former rival Howard Dean for bringing so many disenfranchised voters into the party and the political process.

In fact, some attending Kerry's party last night were former Dean supporters now happily hoisting Kerry signs and wearing Kerry T-shirts and buttons.

"I was real excited about Howard Dean," said Michael Colbruno, an advertising executive from Oakland, Calif. "I thought he was the best candidate for 2003. But I think John Kerry is the best candidate for 2004 to knock George Bush out of the White House."

Before leaving, Kerry took off his jacket, stepped down into the crowd, shook hands and signed autographs as Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down" blared from the speakers.

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