Kerry Bags Five Of Seven; Edwards Rolls In SC
John Kerry won five of seven contests tonight, losing by double digits to John Edwards in South Carolina, and coming in a strong third in Oklahoma behind Wesley Clark and Edwards. In South Carolina, Edwards impressively pulled away from Kerry at the end after outspending him four-to-one. Clark, in a state he had to have, only beat a surging Edwards in Oklahoma by 1300 votes out of almost 300,000 votes, and Kerry by less than ten thousand votes.
Kerry racked up victories across the country, in Missouri, Delaware, Arizona, New Mexico, and North Dakota. With upcoming contests in Washington and Michigan this weekend, and Virginia and Tennessee next week, Kerry aims to compete in all, while Edwards and Clark appear poised to focus on next week’s contests. Kerry’s main challenger in the weekend contests will be tonight’s invisible man Howard Dean, who still has the organizational strength in these caucus states to run better than expected.
Several items of interest tonight:
First, Joe Lieberman threw in the towel tonight with class.
Second, of concern to the White House is the dramatically increasing level of Democratic turnout in all contests to date, as compared to four years ago.
Third, there are reports that Clark (who gave a good speech tonight) spent a good part of his campaign war chest in today’s races, so it is hard to see how he competes in the caucus states this weekend. He must go for broke in the key Southern swing states of Virginia and Tennessee next week against a John Edwards, who also wants to get at least one if not both of those states himself. As for Kerry, a solid second in one or both next week, after racking up a certain win in Michigan and a possible win in Washington will only cement what some of the cable pundits were saying tonight: that the race is over. I don’t think it is, but I find it hard to see a winning strategy for one of the other three that doesn’t count on the normally controlled Kerry making a big mistake.
Fourth, the consensus among the cable pundits was that it is better for Kerry to have several challengers until at least March 2 for two reasons: first, Kerry does not want this race to turn too quickly into a Kerry and an Anyone-but-Kerry race too soon, and second, the White House will begin the smear campaign with the $100 million budget against Kerry in less than a month. Several of the pundits, specifically Chris Matthews and Pat Buchanan think that Kerry has it sewn up already, and both think that Kerry will do a better job in firing back at the White House than Rove thinks. Buchanan also thinks that Kerry has a very good chance to hold the Gore states and pick up Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia, and North or South Carolina if he picks Edwards or Gephardt as his Vice Presidential nominee. Both Buchanan and Joe Scarborough of MSNBC say that despite outward appearances, Bush is having trouble with his conservative base over the budget deficits, the spending programs, and the Rovian immigration bill.
Fifth, Bill Schneider of CNN says that Kerry ran well amongst all groups today, including seniors, women, blacks, unions, and white collar households, and especially did well with the black vote in South Carolina.
Sixth, even Sean Hannity treats Kerry with respect when interviewing him. Perhaps Kerry should roll the dice and do more conservative TV shows as practice for what he can expect from Rove. Building some respect and relationships with the opposition media cannot hurt.
Seventh, most of the pundits thought it was significant, and possibly damaging to Bush that the Democrats were preemptively making an issue of Bush’s disappearance from National Guard duty. Buchanan said that it was brilliant that the DNC was going on the attack on this issue and leaving Kerry apart from it.
Another night where the Democrats are the story, and Bush is left with following the pack and visiting the same states later this week to stay relevant.