Senator John Kerry, with 40 percent of the votes, scored a crucial
victory in the Wisconsin Democratic primary Tuesday, fending off rival
Senator John Edwards' 34 percent.
But the relatively small 44,000-vote margin separating them
ensures that the Democratic race will remain competitive for at least another
two weeks and that voters in California, New York and Ohio will play an
important role in the nominating process. They, along with those in
nine other states, head to the polls on March 2.
The Massachusetts senator retained his status as the man to beat. But
Tuesday's result also bolsters Edwards' campaign and sets the table for
a two-candidate race. It also looks as though former governor Howard
Dean's increasingly quixotic quest for the White House will not be able
After Tuesday's result became apparent, Kerry appeared before
supporters in Madison to declare victory but looked considerably less
energized than he has after previous wins.
"I want to thank so many across Wisconsin and America who have given
this campaign their help and their hearts," Kerry said. "Tonight I say
to all of America: Get ready. A new day is on the way."
In his remarks to supporters in Milwaukee, Edwards appeared emboldened
by the Wisconsin outcome. He stressed that he plans to battle hard for
the nomination in coming weeks.
"Today, the voters of Wisconsin sent a clear message," Edwards said.
"The message was this: Objects in your mirror may be closer than they
For Dean, who finished third with 18 percent of the vote Tuesday,
Wisconsin will be remembered as the state where he made his last,
ultimately unsuccessful, stand. The campaign has scheduled a press
conference for Wednesday afternoon during which Dean will end his
candidacy, according to an Associated Press report.
Two weeks ago, he promised to bow out if he failed to win the state. He
later backed away from that statement. But his campaign chairman left
the organization Monday and his staff has been exploring vacation plans
in recent days, according to various reports.
Still, Dean issued no formal withdrawal from the race Tuesday night. At
roughly the same moment members of the national media were feverishly
writing his political obituary for Wednesday's papers, he appeared
before supporters in Madison.
"We are not done yet," he said.
But Dean did acknowledge that Wisconsin had not proved the backstop he
once said it would be.
"I know that some of you are disappointed because we didn't do as well
as we had hoped we would do in Wisconsin. But I also want you to think
for a moment about how far we have come," he said.
Despite winning by a smaller than expected margin in Wisconsin, Kerry
remains the heavy favorite to win the Democratic nomination. He upped
his delegate total to 605 Tuesday night, compared to 189 for Edwards,
according to a CBS News tally. Dean has 221 delegates. A total of 2,161
are needed to secure the nomination.
For the past week, the major Democratic contenders have focused nearly
all their time and much of their financial resources on Wisconsin. Over
the next two weeks, however, the playing field expands to include as
many as 16 states.
On February 24, voters in Hawaii, Idaho and Utah will cast votes in
Democratic caucuses or primaries.
California, New York, Ohio, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts,
Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington
all hold either primaries or caucuses on March 2, the so-called "Super
Kerry appears to have the edge in many of those states. Only Georgia is
in Edwards' southern home region. To date, the North Carolina senator
has won only his neighboring state, South Carolina.
Kerry appears to have a financial advantage as well. He has a much
broader fund-raising base than Edwards and reported a spike in
contributions after his Iowa victory last month. Contributors tend to
gravitate toward perceived winners and Kerry has basked in the glow of
presumptive nominee recently.
Kerry has also chosen to forgo federal funding assistance. Thus his
campaign is not bound by individual states' spending limits. He could
theoretically flood airwaves from New York to Los Angeles with campaign
The size of the upcoming states could mitigate Kerry's financial
advantage, however. New York and Los Angeles are the two most expensive
media markets in the nation for TV or radio advertising, and airtime in
San Francisco and Atlanta doesn't come cheap, either. So neither
candidate is likely to have an overwhelming advertising presence
Edwards has the advantage of being the last best hope of extending the
current Democratic primary season. The chattering mass of television
talking heads loves a good horse race, so it's in their interests to
talk up Edwards' chances.
Exit polls out of Wisconsin and other states that have voted so far
reveal a Democratic Party unified and energized behind one goal:
defeating George Bush this fall. That sentiment has helped propel Kerry
to the front of the pack.
Kerry won 69 percent of the vote among Wisconsinites who said the most
important quality they were looking for in a candidate was someone who
"can defeat George W. Bush," according to exit-poll data.
Yet Edwards scored higher than Kerry with voters Democrats must reach
to win: Independents and Republicans. In Wisconsin, voters from those
two groups comprised nearly 40 percent of all voters, and they favored
Edwards over Kerry by a wide margin, according to exit results.
Expect to hear more about that in coming days as Edwards makes his case
for being the candidate best equipped to beat Bush this fall.
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