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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Kerry pulls narrow victory out of Wisconsin primary

John Kerry squeezed out victory in Wisconsin, barely holding off hard-charging rival John Edwards who established himself as the front-runner’s sole rival as the Democratic presidential race thunders toward a 10-state showdown March 2.
Howard Dean trailed far behind, winless in 17 contests, his candidacy doomed less than a month after he stood atop the Democratic field. The fallen front-runner retreated to Vermont, where he will consider several options, including endorsing one of his rivals, advisers said.
Close race or not, Kerry said, ”A win is a win.”
Edwards, his dream of a head-to-head matchup now a reality, declared, ”We’ll go full-throttle to the next group of states.”
He pledged to campaign in each of the 10 states holding primaries or caucuses March 2, including California, New York and Ohio, and awarding 1,151 delegates, more than half the total needed to claim the nomination.
The North Carolina lawmaker’s breakout was fueled by the highest Republican turnout of the primary season and voters who made their decision in the last week. His deepest support was in the GOP suburbs of Milwaukee.
”That’s been happening in other primaries, too,” Edwards told The Associated Press in an interview. ”Republicans who would consider voting Democratic and independents are the people we have to win over to win the general election. That’s why I’m the best candidate to take on George Bush.”
Kerry held a wide lead in pre-election polls, but the surveys did not fully reflect voter sentiments after a statewide debate Sunday, Edwards’ criticism of Kerry’s free-trade policies and two newspaper endorsements for Edwards. Nor did the polls take into account 11th-hour attacks on Kerry from President Bush’s re-election team.
”We underwent a lot of Republican attacks the last week. Notwithstanding those attacks, we showed we can fight back,” Kerry told the AP.
”We’re winning in every state across the country,” he said. ”We’re going to win the nomination.”
Kerry won 15 of the 17 elections to date – seven by nearly half the vote – on the east and west coasts, in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the Southwest. He remains the undisputed front-runner, flush with money and momentum.
But the Edwards surprise ended any hope for a quick conclusion to the race and earlier-than-ever general election planning. A poor second-place showing would have crippled Edwards’ campaign.
Dean, the former Vermont governor, ignored pleas to give up the fight.
”We are not done,” he told his supporters, even as his own advisers were saying his campaign for the presidency was effectively over.
Dean was heading back to Vermont to regroup, in search of a way to convert his political network into a movement that helps elect Democrats.
Buoyed by his hot streak, Kerry took two days off last week and ignored his rivals in Wisconsin while focusing on Bush in hopes of persuading voters the nominating fight was over.
”Not so fast, John Kerry,” Edwards said in Sunday’s debate, five words that may best sum up the impact of Tuesday’s results.
Exit polls showed that half of the voters made their selection in the last week, most in the last few days – and Edwards led among late-breakers.
Taking advantage of Wisconsin’s open primary rules, one in 10 voters were Republicans and about 30 percent were independents. Those voters broke for Edwards.
The strong GOP turnout was boosted by city government elections in Milwaukee and a controversial referendum on casino gambling by an Indian tribe.
Primaries in Georgia, Ohio and Vermont on March 2 will be open as will the caucuses in Minnesota.
Kerry has pocketed 578 of the 2,161 delegates needed to secure the nomination, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Dean had just 188, Edwards 166 and Al Sharpton 16.
Wisconsin bestows 72 delegates.
With 72 percent of precincts reporting, Kerry had 39 percent, Edwards had 35 percent, Dean 18 percent, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio 3 percent and Al Sharpton 1 percent.
In a show of gathering strength, Kerry picked up the endorsement of a powerful 19-union alliance while votes were still being cast.
Byron Conway, 27, of Milwaukee, said Kerry was the only candidate with a shot at beating Bush. ”I just want him out,” he said.
Barbara Chamberlain, 79, also of Milwaukee, backed Edwards for the same reason. ”I have hope for him beating you-know-who,” she said.
Edwards called for a one-on-one debate with Kerry heading toward March 2. Kerry’s campaign shrugged off Edwards’ strong showing. ”The problem these other candidates have is they are not competing in a serious way to get enough delegates to get the nomination,” said Kerry’s deputy campaign manager, Steve Elmendorf.
”The guy is positive,” Bill Lohr, 50, of Sun Prairie, Wis., said. ”He’s got a good heart. Kind of like Bill Clinton got us rocking.”
In the final days of the Wisconsin race, Edwards criticized Kerry’s support of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The message found a receptive audience: In exit polls, three-fourths of voters said trade with other countries takes jobs from the United States.

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