Democratic front-runner John Kerry proposed Wednesday requiring a three-month warning before jobs are exported, a challenge to President Bush's policies and to rival John Edwards' efforts to attract American workers to his struggling campaign.
"I'm running for president so we can do what George Bush hasn't — rebuild our economy, restore fiscal responsibility, and put America back to work," Kerry said in a speech at the University of Toledo.
Although Kerry frequently tells audiences that no president can stop companies from leaving the country, the Massachusetts senator said he will require companies that ship jobs offshore to disclose their plans to the government.
"Companies will no longer be able to surprise their workers with a pink slip instead of a paycheck — they will be required to give workers three months notice if their jobs are being exported offshore," he said.
Kerry also picked up an endorsement from former astronaut and retired Sen. John Glenn, a venerable figure in Ohio politics who said he was making his first endorsement in a primary race.
CBS News Anchor Dan Rather will moderate a debate among the four Democratic presidential contenders on Sunday, Feb. 29, at 11:00 AM ET. Watch a live Webcast on CBSNews.com.
Kerry campaigned in Ohio after winning delegate elections Tuesday in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii, earning 18 wins in 20 contests and denying Edwards another opportunity to add to his single victory in the race for the nomination. Neither candidate campaigned in those states to focus on the 10-state Super Tuesday elections next week.
In Ohio, one of the Super Tuesday venues he hoped to win to bring an end to the Edwards campaign, Kerry said 270,000 workers have lost their jobs during the Bush years. He was set to launch a new campaign ad in the Buckeye State and in New York describing Mr. Bush's economic policy as "an astonishing failure" and promising to protect U.S. jobs. The commercial also is meant to soften criticism of Kerry's vote for a free-trade pact.
Kerry also started running a TV ad in Georgia to court veterans. Former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia praises his fellow Vietnam veteran in part of the ad. "He's been tested on the battlefield, he's been tested in the United States Senate, and now he's ready to be president of the United States," Cleland says.
Two weeks after the president's chief economic adviser called the shipping of American jobs abroad "just a new way of doing international trade," Kerry said Mr. Bush lavished special favors on corporations while workers lost their jobs, their pensions and their retirement savings.
Kerry said he will require companies that plan to outsource jobs overseas to inform the affected workers, the Labor Department, state agencies responsible for helping laid off employees and local government officials. The Labor Department would be required to compile statistics of jobs sent offshore and report them on an annual basis to Congress.
Bush spokesman Scott Stanzel criticized Kerry, saying "his plans for higher taxes, more regulation and more litigation would kill jobs in this country. John Kerry would put the brakes on our economic recovery."
While meeting Wednesday morning with about 30 workers at a steel plant in Cleveland, Kerry said he would review all trade agreements in his first four months in office. He said he would not sign the Central American Free Trade Agreement or the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement without protections for labor and environmental standards.
"I don't want to be protectionist because I think that's the wrong thing to do for America, but I think what we have to do is be smart," he said.
Kerry maintained his daily criticism of the president, contending in television interviews that Mr. Bush's backing of a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage was a "wedge issue" the president was using to distract people.
He told the CBS News Early Show that the gay marriage issue was not the one on voters' minds.
"What people are really concerned about is whether their kids can go to a school that's functioning as well as possible," Kerry said. "They care about whether or not they wake up in the morning and they've got the healthcare coverage or they're living in terror of getting sick."
Both Kerry and Edwards say they oppose gay marriage but would vote against a constitutional amendment if it were brought before the Senate.
Although Mr. Bush directed criticism at Kerry on Monday in a preview of what could be part of the give-and-take of the general election, Edwards reminded the president that the race is not over. "Not so fast, George Bush," Edwards said Tuesday. "You don't get to decide who our nominee is."
After losing three more elections to Kerry, the Edwards campaign sounded less feisty when it said, "We congratulate Senator Kerry and look forward to competing with him on Super Tuesday." On Wednesday, Edwards began a three-day campaign swing in California, a 370-delegate prize.
Counting returns from Tuesday's contests, Kerry's lead in the Democratic delegate chase (including superdelegates) is now 748 versus 240 for Edwards, according to a CBS News tally. Nomination requires 2,162 delegates.
A total of 61 pledged delegates were at stake in the three-state races Tuesday night. Of the long-shot hopefuls, Rev. Al Sharpton failed to win any delegates, but Rep. Dennis Kucinich finally pocketed his first pledged delegates, winning six in Hawaii after placing second. The Ohio congressman finished in single digits in Idaho and Utah.