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Inside Politics

Kerry blasts 'crooked' Republicans

Democrat vows to 'keep pounding'

John Kerry adjusts his microphone as he talks to union workers.

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CNN-USA's political team brings you updates and analysis all evening, following Thursday's efforts by the Kerry camp to consolidate support among Democrats on the Hill and President Bush's trip to New York for a September 11 memorial ceremony and fund raising.
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John F. Kerry
Jane Fonda
Chicago (Illinois)

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry, all but officially the Democratic presidential nominee, called Republicans he is battling "crooked" Wednesday.

The comments, caught on tape, came after Kerry addressed the AFL-CIO by satellite. Union workers had been standing behind him. When the satellite feed ended, Kerry spoke briefly with a couple of them.

"Keep smiling," one man said to him.

Kerry responded, "Oh yeah, don't worry man. We're going to keep pounding, let me tell you -- we're just beginning to fight here. These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I've ever seen."

"It's scary," replied another worker.

The tough words followed Kerry's victories Tuesday night in four more primaries, placing him well on his way to claiming the Democratic presidential nomination this summer.(Full story)

Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said Kerry wasn't following his own promise to run a clean campaign, and faulted Democrats for "harsh, angry (and) bitter" comments.

It was not clear whether Kerry knew his microphone was still on. He was speaking quietly, and assistants were removing his microphone as he was speaking.

Afterward, Kerry campaign official David Wade told reporters that Kerry did know his microphone had been on when he was speaking.

Some Republicans have launched the most "crooked, deceitful, personal attacks over the last four years," Wade said, citing what he called attacks on Democratic Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia two years ago and attacks on Sen. John McCain during the race against Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.

Wade also pointed to a doctored photograph that placed Kerry alongside Jane Fonda during protests of the Vietnam war. That doctored photograph surfaced after an authentic photograph surfaced that showed Kerry sitting several rows behind Fonda at an anti-war rally.

Wade blamed all such incidents on a GOP attack "machine."

Wade emphasized that Kerry was not calling Bush crooked.

"We are going to make it very clear that he's a Democrat who punches back," Wade said of Kerry.

But Stanzel suggested it was the Democrats who lobbed the first salvo.

"Throughout the primary process and obviously now, Democrats have used some of the most harsh, angry, bitter rhetoric that we have seen in our country's history," Stanzel said.

"As always, we indicated that we want this to be about the issues," he added.

Stanzel said that on the night of March 3, when Kerry effectively clinched the nomination, Bush called Kerry and said he looked forward to a spirited race. Kerry replied that he hoped the campaign would stick to the issues but, Stanzel said, "It doesn't seem to me that Senator Kerry is following that statement."

Kerry traveled to Washington after campaigning in Chicago. He met with former rival Howard Dean, part of his bid to unify Democrats in advance of the general election.

CNN's Sasha Johnson contributed to this report.

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