Kerry Barely Escapes Edwards In Wisconsin - Dean Out Today
John Kerry won the Wisconsin open primary last night by only six points over a late-closing John Edwards. According to the pundits and CNN’s Bill Schneider, Kerry grabbed the lion’s share of the Democratic vote, while Edwards strong second-place finish at 34% was attributable to grabbing 40% of the independent vote, a large majority of those who decided late, and a good chunk of the GOP voters in the primary who voted for the Democratic candidates. In a late newsbreak, Howard Dean will announce that he is leaving the contest, but it remains unclear if he will support another candidate.
The Wisconsin finish validates what Edwards has been claiming for weeks now, that he is best able to compete for independent and swing voters in the general election. The pundits pointed out that Edwards’ focus on jobs and being an anti-NAFTA candidate gained him a great deal of traction in Wisconsin. The problem facing Edwards is that in the upcoming contests on Super Tuesday March 2, only Ohio and Georgia offer similar open primary opportunities where such issues will really resonate. And according to CNN, Edwards would have to win 60 percent of the remaining delegates to overcome Kerry for the nomination.
Kerry did manage to get forty percent of the vote, but he didn’t do well in the debate over the weekend, resorting to long-winded answers similar to the earlier days of the campaign. His victory speech last night sounded more like a guy trying to stay awake and get out of town, than a guy who just survived a war and managed to use political hardball to bump Edwards from getting national media coverage for his speech. Edwards will be cherry-picking his opportunities from here on. However the race has evolved into a two-person contest sooner than Kerry would have wanted, but against a man who will be conflicted with either going hard at the front-runner or pulling his punches as to not jeopardize a spot on the ticket.
In any event, Edwards will get the positive media coverage over the next several cycles for his strong showing, as he should, and it remains to be seen how the poll numbers for Kerry and Edwards change between now and March 2. What is clear is that Edwards will be sticking around, especially for the March 9 contests across the south, which means that the Democrats will have the spotlight and the energizing attention of the media away from Bush for at least three more weeks. Although this may be bad for Kerry personally to have Edwards emerge this early as the only anybody-but-Kerry candidate, it is good for the party to have this race continue on for several weeks longer. And of course the media is giddy at having a horse race to cover for several more weeks.
Two questions for discussion today: 1) if you were Edwards, do you go for Kerry’s throat in an all-or-nothing grab for the top spot, or do you measure your attack as to not damage your chances for the second spot on the ticket; and 2) if you are Howard Dean, do you throw your support to Edwards, as is rumored? Dean has called a news conference for this afternoon to announce his decision.