Kerry Wins In Wisconsin, Edging Out Edwards Surge

Massachusetts senator beats North Carolina rival by slim margin; Dean on verge of dropping out.

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

to continue.

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

appear."

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

Tuesday."

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

commercials.

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

nationwide.

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.

For more political news, insight into the 2004 presidential election and information on registering to vote, check out ChooseorLose.com.