- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, won the Iowa caucuses last night, and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina placed second in stunning surges that left putative national front-runner Howard Dean a distant third.

“Thank you, Iowa, for making me the Comeback Kerry,” Mr. Kerry said at his victory party last night.

“Not so long ago, this campaign was written off, but in your homes in Iowa, community centers, VFW posts, restaurants where you never let me stop and eat, in homes and living rooms and barns, you listened,” he said.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Kerry had 1,128 pledged delegates to the county conventions, or 38 percent, to Mr. Edwards’ 954, or 32 percent.

Mr. Dean was in third with 540 delegates, or 18 percent, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri trailed with 315, or 11 percent, and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio had 39 delegates, 1 percent of the total.

Mr. Gephardt, who expected to win the contest, strongly implied last night that he plans to drop out of the race. He canceled plans to fly to New Hampshire today, instead calling a news conference this afternoon in his hometown of St. Louis.

“My campaign to fight for working people may be ending tonight, but our fight never ends,” Mr. Gephardt said last night.

“This didn’t come out the way we wanted, but I’ve been through tougher fights in my life. When I watched my 2-year-old son fight terminal cancer and win, it puts everything in perspective,” he said.

Mr. Edwards told supporters at his election party that his positive campaign carried him to second place, a shot at Mr. Dean, who fired up Democratic activists with strong attacks on President Bush.

“I came here a year ago with the belief that we could change this country, that the politics of hope would beat the politics of cynicism,” Mr. Edwards told his jubilant crowd. “The people of Iowa tonight confirmed that they believe in an uplifting vision to change America.”

Mr. Edwards’ campaign started to gather bigger crowds in the last couple of weeks, and he received an endorsement from the state’s largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register.

At his own exuberant postelection rally, Mr. Dean showed no sign of being disappointed, shouting and pointing to his supporters and telling them he at least got his “ticket punched to New Hampshire” and declaring repeatedly that “we will not give up.”

Traditionally, the top three candidates in Iowa are considered viable for the rest of the campaign.

“If you had told us one year ago we were going to come in third in Iowa, we would have given anything for that,” Mr. Dean said, promising to continue his campaign through the rest of the primary states. “We will not quit now or ever. We will win our country back for ordinary Americans.”

Voters attended 1,993 caucuses throughout the state — some of them held in school auditoriums and gyms with hundreds of Democrats, while a few caucuses in more remote parts of the state were held in people’s living rooms.

Many attending the caucuses made their final decision to support Mr. Kerry based on his electability.

“I look at Kerry being the best person available right now to beat Bush,” said John Sachs, 52, right before he stood for Mr. Kerry.

Gigantic turnout apparently helped Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards, and diluted support for Mr. Dean and Mr. Gephardt, who were supposed to have the best voter-turnout organizations.

For months, up until just last week, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kerry had trailed badly in the Iowa polls, with Mr. Dean and Mr. Gephardt exchanging the lead.

Most of the candidates were planning early-morning flights to New Hampshire today to begin campaigning for that state’s first-in-the-nation binding primary, a week from today.

The District of Columbia held a nonbinding primary last week, which Mr. Dean won.

But Iowa’s caucuses, which have not always been contested nor a good predictor of who the nominee will be, were seen as more important this year.

“I’ve never seen in my experience, going back to 1976, Iowa be as important as it is this year,” Steve Murphy, Mr. Gephardt’s campaign manager, told reporters yesterday before voting began.

“With Howard Dean on the decline and so many candidates with viable campaigns at this point, the whole country is going to be looking at Iowa for a clue.”

On the campaign trail, Mr. Kerry lost his voice yesterday and skipped several early events, allowing surrogates to make his final pitch for him.

For his part, Mr. Dean showed up at a memorial yesterday to honor Martin Luther King, but decided to leave when the crush of reporters and photographers following him threatened to disrupt the event.

Professor Ken Goldstein, director of the Wisconsin Advertising Project, said last week that the candidates will have spent more than $100 per caucus voter on TV advertising.

That’s all the more surprising in a caucus state, where campaigns usually turn to “ground” operations to turn out voters, rather than a television-ad “air war,” which works better in primary states.

For the most part, candidates focused on themselves, their plans and their opposition to the president.

But last week, Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Dean engaged in brief back-and-forth attacks. Both campaigns pulled the ads as their candidates continued to slip in the polls relative to Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards.

Mr. Gephardt, whose home state borders Iowa and who won the caucuses in his failed bid for the 1988 nomination, had the support of 21 labor unions this time around. The unions brought hundreds of paid staff members to turn out voters for the congressman.

At campaign stops in small towns across the state this week, he said his long record in Congress, particularly in opposing trade deals, makes him the best candidate.

Mr. Dean, meanwhile, imported an army of young volunteers attracted to his antiwar message, which also promises to change the Democratic Party leadership and beat the president.

But Mr. Dean’s lead in the polls had collapsed in the last two weeks as Iowa voters seemed to simply tire of his angry anti-Bush message.

“We as the American people already know the job Bush is doing,” one Des Moines-area voter, Jill Tidman, said last week.

Maybe most disconcerting for Mr. Dean is that Mr. Kerry more than doubled the former Vermont governor’s delegate total.

Also, Mr. Dean and Mr. Gephardt together — the two candidates who received labor union support — did not surpass Mr. Edwards’ vote total, much less Mr. Kerry’s.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Wesley Clark, a retired Army general, chose to focus on New Hampshire and not campaign in Iowa, though both men had supporters stand up for them at last night’s caucuses. Mr. Clark managed to pick up three delegates to the county conventions.

Mr. Kucinich and Mr. Edwards reached a deal to ask their supporters to back the other candidate in those precincts where one of them didn’t reach the 15 percent threshold for winning delegates.

At every caucus, a candidate must garner at least 15 percent of the vote to have support from that caucus counted when it comes time to choose delegates. If a voter initially backs a candidate with less than 15 percent support at that caucus, he must switch his support to a more dominant candidate.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide