Late Deciders Choose Edwards

WaPo: Race for Wisconsin Primary Closer Than Expected

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.

    Kerry has this one in the bag. An Edwards endorsement from Howard Dean will have minimal impact. Allegations that Kerry is a Communist dupe financed by the Chinese won’t matter.

    Update: WaPo’s Dan Balz is excited that the race continues, though.

  • FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
    James Joyner
    About James Joyner
    James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

    Comments

    1. michele says:

      A) I’d love to see a duel instead of a debate.
      B) Glenn is right – this is a moral victory for Edwards
      B) If I can get A-Rod *and* Maddux, I may as well go for the brokered convention while my luck is good.

    2. Bill says:

      Michele, be a doll and let my Cubbies take Maddux.

      NYT has it 38.9 to 36.8 for Kerry with 35% reporting.

    3. Bill says:

      Looks like Kerry has it now:

      2,055 of 3,528

      Kerry 39.6%
      Edwards 35.6%

    4. Steven says:

      Ah, but choosy moms choose Jif!

    5. Moe Lane says:

      James, I think that Kerry’s still in front, sure: but ‘in the bag’? Does enough of the Democratic base actually like him, or are they just resigned to seeing him win the nomination?

    6. McGehee says:

      Does enough of the Democratic base actually like him, or are they just resigned to seeing him win the nomination?

      I’m not sure it matters which. Nor will their not liking Kerry, if they don’t, matter in November — however much they may dislike Kerry, they hate hate HATE George W. Bush.

    7. Tom says:

      I am in bed with Michelle (figuratively, never lucky enough for literally). I am a believer that the Clinton Machine will keep every option available for Hillary. The bombshells keep dropping on Kerry way to early for the Bush team’s liking. It makes no sense to destroy Kerry until after he has formally sewn up the nomination.
      And people think I am joining the Tin Foil Hat Brigade…

    8. legion says:

      I think Edwards has a solid shot at it for the same reason Dean stayed in (at least until he got smoked in WI) – Kerry can still implode, and if he does, who’s left? The guy with the next-most delegates becomes the Next Big Thing.

      C’mon, do you people remember last week? The Kerry-intern rumors appear to be smoke, but even the Dems were saying “Oh crap, not again” rather than “It can’t possibly be true”. All it takes is one of these things to ‘stick’ and Edwards is The Man. Remember Gary Hart?

    9. James Joyner says:

      Gary Hart imploded very early in the process as I recall. Now, it’s very, very frontloaded. Super Tuesday is going to be phenomenally expensive and I don’t see how Edwards can compete–as much as I’d prefer to have him win. Kerry wins California and New York even if he’s found out to actually be Osama bin Laden in disguise.