Michigan, Washington, Maine, Virginia and Tennessee - five more states in which a majority of delegates joined Senator John Kerrys campaign in the Democratic Primary race last week. The victories boosted Kerrys total delegate vote count to 516, nearly 1/4 of the 2162 delegate votes required to win the nomination.
Behind Kerrys 516 vote total, Howard Dean now counts 182 delegates and John Edwards 166. Before leaving the race early this week, Wesley Clark had garnered 102. Al Sharpton, with 12 delegates, and Dennis Kucinich, with 2, both remain in the race but in campaigns with no viability for ultimate victory.
Although it netted him no delegate votes, Kerry also swept the Herald reader poll, replacing General Clark who had been the leader over the previous two editions. In the final tally, respondents choose Kerry by 14 percentage points over Clark and in mammoth proportions over both Senator John Edwards and Howard Dean.
Presumably, Clarks popularity among Herald readers had to do with the candidates forward looking policy on Puerto Rico, stating that, as President, he was ready to grant Puerto Rico complete equality in all federal programs and back a plebiscite that was non-territorial and bestowed sovereignty on the island and full democratic rights to its residents. Puerto Rico Senator Kenneth McClintock, still a Dean supporter, calls Clarks position on Puerto Rico, "the benchmark that all candidates should meet."
The Kerry campaign has not budged from its position that as president, the Senator would support a self-determination process but would leave the territorial commonwealth option on the ballot. Sources within the Puerto Rico Democratic Party tell the Herald that the Senator is "revisiting" that position. Dean and Edwards continue to be tight-lipped on Puerto Rico.
Shortly after the loss to both Kerry and Edwards in Virginia and Tennessee, General Clark announced his withdrawal from the race to unseat incumbent President George W. Bush in Novembers general election. Clarks campaign rested on his distinguished military record, his criticism of the Bush administrations conduct of the war in Iraq and his status as a Southerner, having claimed Arkansas has his birth place and home of record.
Clarks withdrawal leaves Senator John Edwards solely with the mantel of "Southern candidate," an appeal he has used throughout the campaign to persuade Democrats of his "electability." His argument has been that, as a Southerner, he can win at least five Southern states, now considered a Republican enclave, in the general election. He has said that no Democrat can win in November without breaking the Bush stranglehold on that region. So far, he has needed to share the "Southern Strategy" with
General Clark, but he is now free to make the appeal alone.
Edwards says he proved his point by winning South Carolina and by almost beating Clark in Oklahoma. He is now looking forward to winning big in the remaining Southern primaries. They begin with a March 2nd primary in Georgia (102 delegates); March 9th primaries in Florida (201 delegates), Louisiana (72 delegates), Mississippi (41 delegates) and Texas (233 delegates); and then on April 17th in North Carolina (107 delegates), his political base.
The long-distance runners still in the race will compete tomorrow in the District of Columbia (39 delegates) and Nevada (32 delegates). Then, on next Tuesday, there is a primary election in Wisconsin (87 delegates), the state where Howard Dean has placed all of his chips on the table. He has said that if he doesnt win in this relatively liberal Midwestern state, that he is finished. So far, the former Vermont Governor, who had a dominating lead in the polls before the primary season began, has not won a single caucus or election in the fourteen states so far contested. Notwithstanding his lack of a win, he is still in second place in the delegate count with 183, or some 8% of the number needed to clinch the nomination.
The continuing race is a double-edged sword for the Democratic Party. Some Party leaders say that the race is virtually over and the other candidates should withdraw, conserving funds for the impending expensive campaign against President Bush. On the other hand, the Democratic state-by-state primary fights tend to dominate the national political news, squeezing out the efforts of the Bush administration to gain the spotlight in order to reverse the Presidents sagging approval ratings. Bushs attempt to use footage from his latest TV interview with "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert was rebuffed by NBC, reserving any reused sound bites from the hour-long interview to the networks discretion.
Between now and the last primaries to be held in Montana and New Jersey on June 8th, elections or caucuses will be held in forty-one states or U.S. territories. Puerto Rico will hold its caucus on June 6th, where 58 delegate votes are in play. Other U.S. territories holding primary contests are American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The question for Herald viewers this week is whether the Democratic Primary race is already a rout for John Kerry, or if it is still too early to draw that conclusion because John Edwards and Howard Dean still have a chance to turn things around.