- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2004

DETROIT — Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry appeared poised for victory in today’s Michigan caucuses with his lead furthered by yesterday’s endorsement from formal rival Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

Michigan has the most delegates up for grabs of any of the state contests so far, and polls here showed Mr. Kerry of Massachusetts with a nearly insurmountable lead.

“We came here today to … mark the beginning of the end of the Bush presidency,” Mr. Kerry told a rally of about 200 supporters in the working-class Detroit suburb of Warren yesterday, pledging to fight for more jobs and for their votes today.

Mr. Kerry was flanked by a veritable Who’s Who of Michigan Democrats, including Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow and Rep. John D. Dingell.

Mr. Gephardt, who was the special guest at the rally, is a favorite of the labor community and his support could be a big boost to Mr. Kerry in union-rich Michigan, which has an unemployment rate of 7 percent and lost thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent years.

“I am here today adding my voice to all of yours to say that we want and need this man to be the next president of the United States,” said Mr. Gephardt, who abandoned his own bid for the White House after losing in Iowa.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean cut his Michigan campaigning short this week and focused on his new strategy of reviving his campaign by winning Wisconsin, which holds its primary Feb. 17.

“We see Wisconsin as a clear marker, a stand-alone primary in a state in which we have a strong organization, that kicks off a two-week campaign for 50 percent of the delegates on March 2,” Mr. Dean’s communications director Tricia Enright wrote in a memo yesterday.

In Michigan, a poll conducted by Lansing-based EPIC/MRA from Feb. 4-5, showed Mr. Kerry with 62 percent support, Mr. Dean with 13 percent, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina with 11 percent and the Rev. Al Sharpton with 2 percent. A Detroit News survey taken Feb. 3-5 had Mr. Kerry at 52 percent, Mr. Dean with 9 percent, Mr. Edwards with 8 percent and Mr. Sharpton with 2 percent.

On Thursday, Mr. Sharpton was the only candidate to attend a forum sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for urban Detroit voters, angering organizers and attendees.

“I feel like this is a slap in Detroit’s face,” said Charlene Hartsfield, a resident of Detroit who is retired.

Mr. Kerry addressed the issue at a meeting with black pastors and residents at the Ebenezer Church yesterday, saying his vigorous primary schedule prevented him from being at the event.

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