MAKE-OR-BREAK PRIMARIES FOR CLARK AND EDWARDS
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
BRADENTON, Fla., Feb. 10, 2004 -- With U.S. Sen. John Kerry far in front in the Democratic race for his party's presidential nomination, today's Virginia and Tennessee primaries could effectively end the hopes of retired Gen. Wesley Clark, an Arkansas native, and U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, a trial lawyer who has battled Clark for second place in several states.
There is little doubt both men will linger in the race even if they are defeated today, but after victories in 10 of the last 12 contests, the Kerry campaign has become suffused with the politically radiant aura of inevitability. After one of the most astonishing comebacks in American political history, the Massachusetts senator has the "mo" - and today, that may be it all it takes to put the race away.
But as Kerry speeds towards a five-length finish, former Vt. Gov. Howard Dean has reversed course, saying he will no longer drop out of the race if he fails to win the Feb. 17 Democratic primary in Wisconsin, perhaps the nation's most politically progressive state. A Dean victory there might have been a foregone conclusion months ago, but seems ever more unlikely now.
As Kerry campaigned in both states on Tuesday and accepted the endorsement of Va. Gov. Mark Warner, Gen. Clark sought to define himself in Tennessee as the friend of the working man. Sen. Edwards spoke in Norfolk and faulted Pres. George W. Bush for failing to create more jobs in the military-dependent city. Dean spent most of the day in Green Bay, Wis., where he told an ABC affiliate that his supporters have pleaded with him to remain in the race despite his vow last week to drop out after a Wisconsin loss.
"This has always been a two-way campaign. So my feeling is that we've got to listen to them," Dean told WBAY radio. But, he admitted, "Clearly, if we don't win Wisconsin, there's going to be a real problem trying to run the kind of conventional campaign."
For Edwards and Clark, however, pressure from the party to drop out was building. The New York Times, in a Web-based story published Monday and dated today, quoted a "senior national Democratic party official" as s saying the two men will have trouble getting money from contributors if they fail to win in either state. "The voters will have spoken. Let's get on with it," the Times quoted the official as saying.
For his part, Sen. Kerry has declined to urge anyone to drop out. "I've said all along it's not for me to comment on the choices of other candidates in the race. I'm focused on winning the nomination. I'll do it step by step, one step at a time, and each candidate will have to make up his own mind as to what their choices are in this race," he told the Times.