- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

John Kerry rolled up big victories in delegate-rich Missouri, Arizona and two other states to solidify his position as Democratic presidential front-runner. John Edwards countered by taking his native South Carolina in a dramatic seven-state contest Tuesday.

Kerry, Edwards and Wesley Clark battled for Oklahoma, the closest race of the night and a critical test for Edwards, who hopes to prove his presidential mettle outside the South. Howard Dean was shut out along with Joe Lieberman, who dropped out of the race.

“It’s a huge night,” Kerry told The Associated Press. “I’m stunned by it.”

Racking up victories in Missouri, Arizona, North Dakota and Delaware, Kerry dismissed Edwards’ singular win.

“I compliment John Edwards, but I think you have to run a national campaign, and I think that’s what we’ve shown tonight,” the four-term Massachusetts senator said. “You can’t cherry-pick the presidency.”

Missouri and Arizona were the night’s biggest prizes, with 129 delegates - nearly half of the 269 delegates at stake Tuesday. In state after state, Kerry won among voters who wanted a candidate with experience or who could beat President Bush, exit polls showed.

Edwards had said he must win South Carolina, and he did by dominating among voters who said they most value a candidate who cares about people like them.

“We won South Carolina in a resounding fashion and won both the African-American and white vote in South Carolina, and we go from here to other states - Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee,” Edwards told the AP. “It’s very easy to lay out the map to get us to the nomination.”

To the roar of his supporters, Edwards declared, “The politics of lifting people up beats the politics of beating people down.”

Clark, a retired Army general from Arkansas, needed a victory in neighboring Oklahoma to keep his candidacy alive. As the votes were being counted, Clark told reporters, “This could be over. It could be a long way from over, and it could be impacted tomorrow by something we don’t know about.”

Dean won nothing but a handful of delegates, and advisers privately acknowledged that his chances for a political revival were slim at best.

“We’re going to have a tough night,” Dean told supporters as he promised to keep “going and going and going and going - just like the Energizer bunny.”

“Howard Dean is done,” said Steve Murphy, who ran Rep. Dick Gephardt’s presidential campaign. The list of ex-candidates grows: Sen. Bob Graham dropped out first, then Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Gephardt and Lieberman.

“Today the voters have rendered their verdict and I accept it,” said Lieberman, abandoned by Democratic voters who embraced his historic 2000 vice presidential campaign. “Am I proud of what we stood for in this campaign? You bet I am.”

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