- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

Sen. John Kerry has proved that he can be a national candidate, but in today’s presidential primaries in Virginia and Tennessee he needs to prove that he can be a regional candidate as well.

The Massachusetts Democrat has won primaries and caucuses in the Northeast, the Northwest, the Southwest and the Midwest, but he has not shown he can win in the South — something that is critical for the eventual nominee.

That looks likely to change today.

The latest Zogby tracking polls have Mr. Kerry winning 47 percent of support in Virginia and 45 percent of support in Tennessee — well ahead of Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who has 24 percent and 21 percent support in those states, respectively, and Wesley Clark, a retired Army general who has 11 percent and 19 percent support, respectively.

Meanwhile, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who is ignoring today’s primaries, has changed his mind about needing to win in Wisconsin’s primary next week.

“It’s not going to be the end of the line,” he said yesterday in an interview with local television stations in Wisconsin.

But just last week, Mr. Dean, in a memo to supporters, had said his chances all came down to Wisconsin.

“We must win Wisconsin,” he wrote in a plea for contributions. “A win there will carry us to the big states of March 2 and narrow the field to two candidates. Anything less will put us out of this race.”

Mr. Dean has not won any of the first 12 nomination contests, but told reporters his supporters had persuaded him to stay in the race even if he continues to lose.

Mr. Clark and Mr. Edwards have both won states — Mr. Clark won Oklahoma and Mr. Edwards won South Carolina last week.

But both men are preparing for Mr. Kerry’s victories today and are fighting for strong enough showings in the two states to keep their campaigns viable.

“What I want to do is finish in the top two here in Virginia, finish in the top two in Tennessee,” Mr. Edwards said in Norfolk yesterday. “Then we go on to Wisconsin.”

For his part, Mr. Kerry, campaigning in Virginia, ignored his rivals and focused solely on defeating President Bush.

“You are choosing tomorrow not just a president of the United States,” Mr. Kerry said at a rally in Roanoke yesterday. “You have the privilege of having an impact on the lives of people all over this planet because you are choosing a leader of the free world.”

One Edwards supporter said the strength of Mr. Kerry’s showing in Virginia will depend on the level of turnout in Northern Virginia.

David “Mudcat” Saunders, a pro-Edwards Democratic strategist bent on winning back the South for the Democratic Party, said in rural Virginia, “Johnny will take a wire brush to John Kerry.”

He said winning Northern Virginia says nothing about the ability to win the Southern vote: “Northern Virginia is a Boston suburb.”

Meanwhile, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio both continue their campaigns.

Yesterday, Mr. Kucinich said his third-place showings over the weekend in the Washington and Maine caucuses deserve more attention.

“Dennis Kucinich has begun a strong surge in the race for the Democratic nomination,” his campaign announced in an e-mail to supporters. “He is in this race to the end. The time has come for the national media to get wise to this, and at a minimum, to begin reporting basic facts with accuracy and integrity.”

He won 8 percent of the vote in Washington, behind Mr. Kerry’s 48 percent and Mr. Dean’s 30 percent. And in Maine, he won 13 percent of the vote, while Mr. Kerry won 46 percent and Mr. Dean won 26 percent.

Charles Hurt contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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