- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Sen. John Kerry prepared to land the knockout blow to Sen. John Edwards and the rest of the Democratic presidential field in today’s 10 binding Super Tuesday contests, which include a primary in Maryland and the major national prizes of California, New York and Ohio.

Today’s races are the first real one-on-one matchups that Mr. Kerry has had, in this case against Mr. Edwards of North Carolina. Since the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses, the field of candidates continually has narrowed.

Winning an overwhelming portion of the 1,151 delegates at stake wouldn’t secure the nomination for Mr. Kerry, who has 688 delegates of the total 2,162 needed to win. But with victories expected in most if not all 10 states, he will leave Mr. Edwards with little chance.

Campaigning at Morgan State University in Baltimore yesterday, Mr. Kerry continued to hone his argument, promising not to run “one of those mealy-mouthed campaigns where you walk around the country and people can’t tell the difference” between himself and President Bush.

He also said Mr. Bush’s foreign policy has “created terrorists where they did not exist.”

Minnesota holds caucuses today, and nine states hold primaries: Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Georgia, Ohio, California and New York.

Of 3.5 million votes cast in primaries and caucuses to date, Mr. Kerry has won slightly less than 42 percent of the overall vote, while Mr. Edwards has won about 26 percent. Those figures don’t include the Iowa caucuses, which report delegate counts from each precinct, rather than individual votes.

After the initial primaries and caucuses, Mr. Kerry consistently has won between 40 percent and 50 percent of the votes in each subsequent group of contests, including a 40 percent showing among the seven Feb. 3 states, a 51 percent showing in the Michigan, Washington and Maine caucuses, about a 46 percent showing in Virginia and Tennessee on Feb. 10, and a 40 percent showing in Wisconsin on Feb. 17.

Also competing nationally today are the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, although they have no real chance of securing the nomination.

The biggest prizes available are New York and California, which account for more than half of the delegates at stake today. Mr. Edwards has written off the four New England states and California, leaving him five other states in which to make a stand.

He consistently has said he is trying to amass enough delegates to keep viable and hope his campaign message takes off, but yesterday he said that strategy might have an end in sight.

“At some point, I’ve got to start getting more delegates or I’m not going to be the nominee,” he told reporters.

Except for the two debates in the past week, Mr. Kerry has all but ignored Mr. Edwards, although the latter has tried to draw distinctions between himself and the Massachusetts senator on trade.

In a debate this weekend, Mr. Edwards said Mr. Kerry’s promise to review trade agreements isn’t good enough.

“We know what’s wrong with these trade agreements. They need to be changed. The president of the United States needs to be willing to change them,” Mr. Edwards said.

But even in Ohio, where that message might resonate, polls show Mr. Edwards hasn’t caught on enough. An American Research Group (ARG) poll released last week found Mr. Kerry leading Mr. Edwards 47 percent to 26 percent among likely Democratic voters.

In New York, an ARG poll last week showed Mr. Kerry leading Mr. Edwards 42 percent to 35 percent, and other polls showed Mr. Kerry with commanding leads of 30 percent or more among likely California voters.

In Georgia, a Southern state that could have been Mr. Edwards’ best shot for a substantial win, Mr. Kerry led in a Zogby poll over the weekend 46 percent to 27 percent.

Mr. Edwards has gotten a boost from supporters of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who dropped out of the campaign after the Feb. 17 primary in Wisconsin.

Many of Mr. Dean’s hard-core supporters said they could not stomach voting for Mr. Kerry, and some have even officially endorsed Mr. Edwards.

Mr. Edwards said this weekend he will continue to campaign even if he doesn’t win a single victory today.

“Why? Because the American people deserve this choice,” he said.

Mr. Edwards is in Atlanta for a post-election party tonight, and already has laid out his schedule to campaign in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida through the end of this week.

Mr. Kerry will hold a post-election party at the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue here in the District before flying to Orlando, Fla., tomorrow to begin campaigning for next week’s Southern primaries — Louisiana, Mississippi and the nation’s second and fourth most-populous states, Texas and Florida.

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