Late Deciders Choose Edwards
Sen. John F. Kerry was locked in a tight race tonight in the Wisconsin Democratic primary with Sen. John Edwards, who has emerged as Kerry’s main rival and benefited from a late surge, according to exit polls and early returns.
Initial returns showed Kerry and Edwards tied with 38 percent of the vote each.
Kerry, a four-term senator from Massachusetts, had opened a double-digit lead in tracking polls before the primary, threatening to blow all challengers out of the water in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
But exit polls conducted for television networks and the Associated Press showed Kerry with only a narrow lead after a late swing by previously undecided voters to Edwards, the freshman senator from North Carolina.
Former Vermont governor Howard Dean was running well behind the two leaders. MSNBC and CNN projected that he would finish a “distant” third behind Kerry and Edwards.
Edwards said on CNN’s “Larry King Live” that he was “surprised by the strength of the surge” for his candidacy in Wisconsin. He said support from independents in the primary shows that “I can beat George Bush” in the November election.
“I’ve been looking forward to the time when this is a two-person race when people focus on Sen. Kerry and myself,” Edwards said. He said he would “make distinctions between Senator Kerry and myself” in the days ahead, but would not engage in personal attacks on the front-runner. “There are differences between us,” he said. “Voters deserve to know those differences.”
I think Edwards is correct in his assessment of the dynamic of the race–he has emerged as the only plausible alternative to Kerry. But I still maintain that it’s too late for him to wrest control at this stage barring a monumental implosion on Kerry’s part. And Kerry isn’t Howard Dean: he’s been at this a while.
- Jeff Jarvis would like to see a Kerry-Edwards only debate, though.
- Michele Catalano is still holding out for a brokered convention. Right. Like she’s going to get A-Rod and that.
- Glenn Reynolds reports that Fox has declared Kerry the winner but thinks that this will be spun as an Edwards win regardless.
Update: WaPo’s Dan Balz is excited that the race continues, though.