- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Sen. John Kerry scored huge wins in Virginia and Tennessee yesterday, proving he could win in the South and all but ending his opponents’ chances to catch him for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The victories led one rival, Wesley Clark, to end his campaign. In one month, the Massachusetts senator has gone from also-ran to a dominant candidate who can win support from Democrats across the geographic and ideological spectrum.

“Once again, the message rings out loud and clear. Americans are voting for change: East and West, North, and now, in the South,” Mr. Kerry said at a victory speech at the Johnson Center at George Mason University last night.

“You showed that the mainstream values we share — fairness, love of country, a belief in hope and in hard work — are more important than boundaries or birthplace,” he said.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting in Virginia, Mr. Kerry had 52 percent of the vote and 203,486 votes; Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina had 104,782 votes, or 27 percent; Mr. Clark, a retired Army general, had 36,461 votes, or 9 percent; and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean had 27,582 votes, for 7 percent.

In Tennessee, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Kerry had 41 percent of the vote and 150,185 votes; Mr. Edwards had 96,732 votes, or 26 percent; Mr. Clark had 84,589 votes, or 23 percent; and Mr. Dean had 15,985 votes, for 4 percent.

After the twin third-place showings, Mr. Clark’s campaign spokesman said his boss would drop out of the race today.

In his speech to supporters, Mr. Clark did not say he would drop out, but he sounded like a man whose race is over, telling supporters in Tennessee, where he had spent most of the past week, somebody has to beat President Bush.

“We may have lost this battle today, but I tell you what — we’re not going to lose the battle for America’s future,” he said in Memphis. The retired general spent much of his speech praising the other candidates and the Democratic Party in general.

Later, a C-SPAN microphone caught him talking with one supporter who said he wished Mr. Clark had taken part in Iowa’s caucuses.

“I wish I had, too. Everything might have been different,” Mr. Clark said.

One Democratic elder statesman, Leon Panetta, who served 16 years in Congress before serving as budget director and chief of staff to President Clinton, said it’s time for the party to unify behind Mr. Kerry.

“I think it is obvious from the results of these primaries as to what the handwriting on the wall is,” he told the Associated Press.

“At some point, perhaps sooner rather than later, I think Democrats need to unify behind John Kerry and refocus on winning in November,” said Mr. Panetta, who is not affiliated with any candidate.

Another former high-ranking Clinton official, former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, sounded a similar note, saying that “my hope is that the winnowing process begins right after tonight.”

But Mr. Edwards already had moved on to Wisconsin last night, preparing for that state’s Tuesday primary.

At his rally in Milwaukee, Mr. Edwards said the results mean the campaign will go on.

“We’re going to have a campaign and an election, not a coronation,” Mr. Edwards said.

Mr. Kerry’s opponents point out that far more than half of the delegates to the Democratic convention in Boston this summer have yet to be decided. But Mr. Kerry has been dominant so far, showing no weaknesses in winning 12 of the 14 binding nomination contests. Mr. Edwards won South Carolina last week, while Mr. Clark won Oklahoma.

Mr. Dean, whose campaign has collapsed this year, didn’t campaign in either state and placed fourth in both. The former Vermont governor is the only major candidate still in the race who hasn’t won a state. He spent this week focusing on Wisconsin.

Mike Tate, Mr. Dean’s Wisconsin campaign director, sent a memo yesterday predicting victory and detailing the campaign’s efforts in the state. But Mr. Dean is shown at third in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel poll and fourth in an American Research Group poll, both released this week.

Mr. Kerry was in first place with more than 40 percent of the vote in both Wisconsin polls, and Mr. Clark was second, at least 25 percent behind Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Dean, speaking on CNN last night, said he would only run as long as he doesn’t believe he is hurting his party’s chances.

“I’m not going to run a quixotic campaign to ruin the Democrats’ chances of beating George Bush,” he said.

He also said many of his supporters don’t believe Mr. Kerry represents real change, which is why he now is saying he will remain in the campaign even if he loses Wisconsin — a benchmark he had set earlier.

Exit polls last night showed Mr. Kerry performed particularly well among black voters, winning 64 percent of the black vote in Virginia and 46 percent in Tennessee.

As in other states, Mr. Kerry dominated among those who voted for a candidate because he is perceived as the most likely to be able to beat Mr. Bush in November.

In Virginia, Mr. Kerry received a boost when Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, endorsed him last week. Mr. Warner introduced Mr. Kerry last night.

“To win in Virginia, you’ve got to win the votes and the hearts and the minds of coal miners in Southwest Virginia,” Mr. Warner said. “You’ve got to win the hearts and the minds of tobacco farmers in Southside Virginia. You’ve got to win the hearts and minds of veterans in Hampton Roads. And you’ve got to win the hearts and minds of people who are creating the information age in Northern Virginia.”

“The returns are in — John Kerry won in every part of Virginia,” Mr. Warner said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton placed fifth in both states, garnering about 1 percent of white voters’ support and failing to attract more than 10 percent support in either state from black voters.

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, who took third place in the Washington and Maine caucuses over the weekend, placed sixth in both contests.

Not everyone was a fan of Mr. Kerry at George Mason last night — a heckler was booed for shouting “Go Bush” as Mr. Warner was speaking, and some members of the audience carried pro-Bush signs.

Two persons wearing bug-eyed Martian masks and black robes milled about in front of the Johnson Center carrying signs. One read “Kucinich come home.”

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