- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 8, 2004

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — John Kerry crushed his opponents in yesterday’s Democratic caucuses in Michigan and Washington, as the Massachusetts senator pushed on toward securing his party’s presidential nomination.

Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, fell further behind with Democratic voters and saw a key union endorsement withdrawn as his campaign sputtered.

Mr. Kerry, speaking at a dinner party in Richmond that Mr. Dean avoided, last night thanked voters in Washington and Michigan for the victories and leveled a new broadside at President Bush, calling him “extreme.”

“This week George Bush and the Republican smear machine have begun trotting out the same old tired lines of attack that they’ve used before to divide this nation and to evade the real issues before us,” Mr. Kerry said.

“They’re the ones who are extreme. We’re the ones who are mainstream, and when we sideline their attacks with the truth they will truly get desperate and have to do something they’ve never done before, which is actually talk about the issues and their record.”

In Washington state, with 97 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Kerry led with 49 percent of the vote, followed by Mr. Dean with 30 percent; Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio with 8 percent; Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina with 7 percent; and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark with 3 percent. No vote totals were available.

In Michigan, with 88 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Kerry led with 76,712 votes or 52 percent. Mr. Dean had 25,667 votes or 17 percent; Mr. Edwards, 20,157 votes or 14 percent; Mr. Clark, 10,280 or 7 percent; the Rev. Al Sharpton, 7,682 or 5 percent; and Mr. Kucinich, 4,731 or 3 percent.

“I’m excited; he’s the man,” said James Hannon, 81, after casting his ballot for Mr. Kerry at Green Acres Bingo Hall in the working-class Detroit suburb of Warren.

Voter turnout was so heavy at the hall that volunteers had to find more pens.

Mr. Dean got more bad news yesterday when the head of a major union that gave him an early boost told him that the organization would withdraw its support, dealing a huge blow to his faltering campaign.

Gerald McEntee, head of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, delivered the news to Mr. Dean in a meeting in Burlington, Vt., with leaders of two other unions whose support had bolstered his campaign, said two Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

However, leaders of the Service Employees International Union said it remained committed to Mr. Dean at least through the Wisconsin primary on Feb. 17. The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades also is still aboard, Dean officials said.

Maine holds its caucuses today and both Virginia and Tennessee have primaries Tuesday.

Mr. Kerry, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Clark and Mr. Sharpton last night descended on Richmond to attend the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, the Virginia Democratic Party’s biggest fund-raiser of the year. Mr. Dean, who was in Vermont yesterday to watch his son play hockey, canceled his appearance at the dinner.

Mr. Kerry’s victories left him with more than twice as many delegates as his closest pursuer, the Associated Press reported. His overall delegate total swelled to 412, with Mr. Dean at 174, Mr. Edwards at 116, Mr. Clark at 82 and Mr. Sharpton at 12. It takes 2,162 to win the nomination.

Mr. Dean had made Michigan his focus after losing Iowa and New Hampshire, and thought he could win here.

But with polls showing that increasingly unlikely, Mr. Dean ended campaigning in Michigan on Thursday night and headed to Wisconsin, where he said he has to win to stay in the race.

“Dean just sort of fizzled,” said Joe Weeks, who was in charge of the caucus site at the Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Church near downtown Detroit.

In Michigan, Mr. Kerry secured the endorsements of most of the major Democratic players, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm. His former rival in the race, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri — a favorite among union workers — endorsed him Friday.

Voters said that even though they like Mr. Dean, they don’t think he can beat President Bush.

“Kerry has been around for a long time, and he’s the one most likely to go against Bush and do well,” said George Thottakath, a Detroit dental lab technician who said he voted for the Massachusetts senator. “Electability is key.”

After a town hall meeting Thursday with Mr. Dean at a community center in Royal Oaks, Mich., Troy retiree Karl Gordon said the former Vermont governor won’t win a general election because he attacked Mr. Bush too stridently over the Iraq war.

“I want to win this election,” Mr. Gordon said.

“He has had nothing but wins and he is going to make a great candidate and he is going to make a great president,” Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, said of Mr. Kerry at a victory party last night in Southfield.

The Michigan victory shows that Mr. Kerry can win support in the Great Lakes and Midwest areas, Mr. Dingell said.

“Michigan is now Kerry country,” Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, told the cheering crowd.

Mr. Kerry exulted after his eighth and ninth wins in three weeks.

“These results,” he said, “show that our campaign is uniting Americans from different parts of our country and different walks of life, with a common purpose: To bring back jobs and prosperity, to make health care affordable and accessible to all our people, to silence the powerful interests that dominate this White House so that the voice of everyday people can be heard and to make America safer and stronger in the world.”

Mr. Edwards, who last visited Wisconsin in November, is expected to spend a great deal of time in the state starting Wednesday. In Virginia and Tennessee, which hold primaries Tuesday, he faces a tough battle against Mr. Clark, a fellow Southerner, but predicts he will do well.

“I feel very, very good about how we’re doing right now,” Mr. Edwards told reporters in Memphis. “It’s important … for me to be competitive; I’d like to be in the top two in both places.”

Mr. Edwards crisscrossed Tennessee and Virginia trying to secure votes, and his camp hopes a strong performance there will knock out Mr. Clark, who has waged a sustained attack on Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Edwards has peppered what he calls positive speeches with promises he can defeat President Bush in the November election because he is from the South, often a pivotal region in a national election.

“I’m for him because he’s very positive,” said Katy Wolf, a retired medical technician who considers it important to have a Southerner on the Democratic ticket. “I think it’s critical, I think it gets the Southern vote.”

Also yesterday, Mr. Clark took issue with a report that cited documents from his tenure as NATO commander as saying Clinton administration officials urged an end to the Kosovo war in the summer of 1999 so that the conflict would not hurt Al Gore’s coming presidential campaign.

President Clinton and his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, “were totally committed to this operation,” Mr. Clark said. “I never had any political pressure to do anything but succeed.”

Dean and Edwards campaign officials said they received reports of voter disenfranchisement yesterday in predominantly minority areas of Michigan.

“In several locations in Detroit, Southfield, Grand Rapids and other locations, voters arrived at their caucus sites this morning only to find a sign on the door informing them that their caucus locations had changed,” said Daren Berringer, Mr. Dean’s state director.

The Dean campaign said it set up a hot line to help voters find caucus locations.

This article is based in part on wire reports.

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