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Fargo, N.D. — Organizers estimate more than 700 people were at the Fargo Air Museum to see Kerry, the latest Democratic candidate to make a stop in the state ahead of Tuesday's presidential caucuses.
Kerry's speech focused on a familiar theme: a change at the top is needed. Kerry told the audience that under the Bush administration family farmers have suffered.
"Almost 60 percent of the subsidies go to about 10 percent of the farmers. We've lost 274,000 farms across America in the last 15 years, even as we poured $131 billion into the effort and we need a president of the United States who is going to stand up to those big interests," he said.
Kerry's theme of change included taxes. He says the country doesn't need more tax cuts for the wealthy. He says if elected, reform of the tax code will happen.
"I pledge to you that if you will make me president, we will put that tax code in front of this nation. And we will not leave one incentive, not one reward not one benefit for one Benedict Arnold company or CEO that want to take American jobs and money overseas and stick the American people with the bill," Kerry said.
Trade issues are a hot-button issue in North Dakota. The economy here is changing. There are more high-tech jobs than ever before. Trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA are not popular with voters. It's an issue Kerry acknowledged.
"We will not have one trade agreement that does not raise the standards and consider labor and environment standards," he said. "Because if you give the American worker a fair playing field to fight on theres no one in the world the American worker can't compete with and that's the principle we're going to live by."
Kerry is the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He's won in Iowa and New Hampshire. North Dakota is one of seven states holding a primary or caucus on Tuesday. A recent poll shows Kerry is leading here, but 40 percent of Democrats are like retiree Ron Nelson. They want a new president, they just don't know who yet.
"President Bush don't seem to be leveling with the public. Programs seem to be costing much more than he estimates and I don't know if that's his fault. That's my feeling," he said.
A local poll shows Kerry holding a double-digit lead over his nearest rival, Gen. Wesley Clark. The same poll shows half of the undecided voters are leaning toward Kerry.
Party officials say some 18,000 ballots have been sent out for Tuesday's caucuses.
North Dakota will have 22 delegates at the Democratic National Convention. The state has not gone to a Democrat in the presidential elections since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.