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Edwards Focuses on Crucial States While Kerry Sets His Sights on Bush 2 decks

By David M. Halbfinger

and Randal C. Archibold

The New York Times -- ATLANTA

Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards made a last push through the crucial states of Ohio and Georgia on Monday as Edwards worked to pull out a victory on Super Tuesday to keep his campaign alive and Kerry tried for a clean sweep of the 10 states in contention.

In Ohio, Edwards bounded from Toledo to Dayton and Cleveland before flying to Macon, Ga., focusing on two states where his advisers believe he has the strongest chance of winning. But unlike in earlier contests in which Edwards came on strong at the end, the crowds on Monday were meager, the polls discouraging and the endorsements from major newspapers missing.

Edwards was also ignored by his rival on the eve of what the Kerry campaign hopes will be his elimination from the race. Kerry addressed bigger, noisier crowds as if the nomination were already his, promising nearly 1,000 people in Columbus, Ohio, a “campaign of truth” against President Bush.

He said he would prove to voters that he could find money for his costly proposals for health care, education and job creation.

“This isn’t going to be some kind of we’re-like-them, they’re-like-us, wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed, we-can’t-tell-the-difference deal,” he said, borrowing a page from Howard Dean. “This is going to be something where we’re giving America a real choice. Our choice is, we’re going to roll back George Bush’s tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and invest in education and health care.”

By nightfall, Kerry was in Atlanta, where he won the endorsement of Mayor Shirley Franklin, who has strong support in the suburbs as well as in the city. Earlier in Baltimore, Kerry appealed directly to general-election voters on the issue of national security.

“I don’t think we Democrats and independents and moderate, thoughtful Republicans ought to shy away for a moment from standing up in front of America, and making it clear that there is a better way to make America safe than this president has chosen,” he said at Morgan State University. “This president has in fact created terrorists where they didn’t exist.”

Kerry told some 600 people that Bush could use a visit to the campus, too. “If he came here, I believe, I think he could straighten out his fuzzy math,” Kerry said, “because the numbers don’t add up.

“He’s not multiplying the jobs,” Kerry continued. “He’s trying to divide America. And so, I think our solution -- we ought to subtract George Bush from the political equation of the United States.”

At every stop, Kerry implored his listeners to vote with a sense of urgency. “It’s not about words,” he said in Columbus. “It’s not about parties. It’s about ideas. It’s about life itself.”