February 19, 2004
Two-horse race: Dean abandons campaign
Edwards needs convincing wins vs. Kerry, experts say
By TOBY ECKERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – As Howard Dean folded his campaign yesterday, John Edwards got what he wanted: a one-on-one race with John Kerry for the Democratic presidential nomination.
With contests looming in 10 states on March 2, including California, New York and Ohio, Edwards now faces the daunting – and costly – prospect of mounting a truly national challenge to the front-runner.
Edwards has only one win under his belt, in South Carolina, along with second-place finishes in Wisconsin and several other states, compared with Kerry's 15 primary and caucus victories.
Democratic strategists and independent analysts said Edwards, a senator from North Carolina, needs to score convincing wins in at least two or three states.
"Zero wins on Super Tuesday and I think his campaign would have a very hard time continuing," said John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron in Ohio.
Edwards faces big obstacles: a front-loaded election schedule that has given Kerry momentum since his come-from-behind win in Iowa's leadoff caucuses, a Democratic establishment that is coalescing around Kerry, and races in large states with expensive media markets.
Kerry, for his part, must fend off not only Edwards but also increasing attacks from President Bush's Republican surrogates, who dogged the Massachusetts senator in Ohio this week.
"In all fairness, I think you would have to give Sen. Kerry an edge," Green said. "After all, he has won all but two of the contests so far and has a good head of steam up. But Edwards is a good campaigner."
Dean's exit puts a wild card into play. He still has a network of hard-core supporters, a knack for fund raising and at least a small base of voters. However, he did not endorse Edwards or Kerry yesterday.
"I am no longer actively pursuing the presidency," Dean said in Burlington, Vt. "We will, however, continue to build a new organization, using our enormous grass-roots network, to continue the effort to transform the Democratic Party and to change our country."
The former Vermont governor urged supporters: "Keep active in the primary. . . . Fight on in the caucuses. We are on the ballots. Use your network to send progressive delegates to the (Democratic National) Convention in Boston."
Edwards and Kerry had kind words for Dean, issuing statements that praised his role in energizing the race. In recent weeks, Dean had sharply criticized Kerry after the two swapped positions as front-runner and apparent also-ran.
Campaigning in Ohio yesterday, Kerry took a swipe at Edwards for criticizing his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Edwards blames for the loss of thousands of U.S. jobs.
Kerry, who has advocated stronger labor and environmental standards in trade pacts, told reporters yesterday that he and Edwards had similar positions on trade. Both men, for instance, supported normalized trade relations with China.
"He wasn't in the Senate" for the NAFTA vote, Kerry said of Edwards. "I don't know where he registered his vote, but it wasn't in the Senate."
Edwards countered that he opposed other trade legislation Kerry supported, including "fast track" negotiating authority for the president. He also highlighted other distinctions, including Kerry's acceptance of campaign contributions from lobbyists.
"I think the voters deserve to know the differences between us," Edwards told reporters as he challenged Kerry to a series of debates.
Edwards' criticism of NAFTA resonated with many voters in Wisconsin and could help him in other areas hit hard by lost manufacturing jobs, including parts of Ohio and New York. But it might not work to his advantage in California, some observers said.
"This state is behind the notion of NAFTA and free trade," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of Southern California. "We are a very export-oriented state. Our economy is joined with the economy of Mexico, and we're poised at the cusp of the Pacific Rim."
Some political analysts question whether Edwards will make a major push for California's 370 convention delegates, the biggest prize on March 2, because of the expense involved in campaigning there. They expect him to focus on New York, Ohio and Georgia.
Other states voting that day are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Edwards has stated that he will be competitive in all 10 states, where a total of 1,151 delegates are at stake.
"We're going to do what we can to compete for delegates everywhere," said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for Edwards' campaign. "I think you're going to see that our momentum is truly national."
The campaign reported $307,951 in online contributions in nearly 24 hours after the polls closed in Wisconsin. Edwards also raised $500,000 at two events last week in California.
"The need to raise money will take them both to California and New York" over the next two weeks, Jeffe said.
Ohio also looms large for both candidates, a fact highlighted by Kerry's decision to campaign there first after Tuesday's Wisconsin primary. Edwards plans to be there over the weekend.
The Buckeye State sends 140 pledged delegates to the Democratic convention and is considered pivotal in the general election. Bush narrowly won Ohio in 2000.
Yesterday, Kerry continued to hammer away at Bush, noting that the administration has backed away from its prediction that 2.6 million jobs would be created by the end of the year, spurred in part by tax cuts.
"A policy that's failed over and over won't work just because it's an election year," Kerry said in Ohio. "Time after time, this president's policies have failed to create the jobs that George Bush promised they would."
Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie fired back during a conference call with reporters, saying Kerry's proposal to repeal tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 a year would hurt job creation.
"Two-thirds of those filers are small-business owners or investors," Gillespie said. "Raising taxes on small businesses at a time when we're trying to foster job creation is the exact wrong policy."
Copley News Service correspondent Paul Krawzak contributed to this report.