John Kerry Officially Racks Up Enough Delegates To Win Nomination

Victory in Illinois primary clinches it for Kerry; candidate already focused on battle with Bush.

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry officially wrapped up the Democratic presidential nomination with his victory in the Illinois primary Tuesday.

Kerry has been the presumptive nominee since his near-sweep of Super Tuesday on March 2, and it's been unofficially reported that he'd mathematically clinched the nomination on several occasions since then. But those results were based on the pledged support of superdelegates, party leaders and officials who are granted a vote at July's Democratic National Convention.

So it was not until Kerry won the delegates in Illinois that he actually exceeded the 2,162 guaranteed delegates -- those won in the state contests -- necessary to seal the nomination.

On Tuesday night, Kerry thanked Illinois voters for "putting us over the top in the delegate count.

"This night marks the opening of the general election debate about the direction of our country," Kerry told a crowd of supporters in Charleston, West Virginia, where he was campaigning, according to "I will be a president who truly unites our country, not divides it."

Kerry is already well into his battle with President Bush: On Wednesday (March 17), he observed the approaching first anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq by criticizing the Bush administration's policies.

"We are still bogged down in Iraq and the administration stubbornly holds to failed policies that drive potential allies away. What we have seen is a steady loss of lives and mounting cost in dollars with no end in sight," Kerry said in remarks prepared for delivery at George Washington University. Bush administration officials were expected to respond with remarks detailing what it views as the war's successes.

As Kerry campaigned in West Virginia on Tuesday, the Bush campaign released television ads questioning Kerry's stance on defense. The issue is particularly pertinent to West Virginia, which includes more than 200,000 veterans in its population. West Virginia, which has traditionally voted Democrat, went to Bush in 2000, and its five electoral votes could have propelled Al Gore to the presidency.

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