Massachusetts Senator John Kerry was the big winner in the first major test of the 2004 battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Senator Kerry finished first in the Iowa presidential caucuses, with 38 percent of the vote, followed by North Carolina Senator John Edwards, with 32 percent.
Iowa Democrats turned out, on a frigid night, to reward Senator Kerry with the first major prize in the 2004 election campaign - first place in the state's presidential caucuses. Voter exit surveys indicated that many Democrats made up their minds in the final days of the Iowa campaign - fueling a surge that carried Senator Kerry to a surprising victory over his rivals.
In a victory speech to his Iowa supporters, Senator Kerry set his sights on the man he would like to oppose in the November election, President Bush. "If George Bush wants to make national security the central issue of this campaign, I have three words for him we know he understands. Bring it on! Bring it on! Bring it on!"
The other big winner in the Iowa vote was North Carolina Senator John Edwards. He also benefited from a late surge of support -- something he hopes to capitalize in the primary contests to come. "The people of Iowa tonight confirmed that they believe in a positive, uplifting vision to change America," he said.
Finishing in third place was former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. That was somewhat of a disappointment for the man who had been considered the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, in recent months.
Mr. Dean urged on his supporters, during a rally in Des Moines. "We will not give up in South Carolina. We will not give up in Arizona, or New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan. We will not quit, now or ever," he said. "We want our country back for ordinary Americans."
The biggest disappointment of the night was Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt finishing a distant fourth in the Iowa voting -- a far cry from his victory in the caucuses when he first ran for president in 1988.
Mr. Gephardt signaled that his presidential campaign will come to an end. "My campaign to fight for working people may be ending tonight, but our fight will never end," he said. "We will reclaim the White House in 2004 because we have to."
The battle for the Democratic presidential nomination now moves to New Hampshire, which hosts the first-in-the-nation presidential primary on January 27.
Howard Dean has been running strong in New Hampshire for months. But retired Army General Wesley Clark, who skipped the Iowa vote, is running a vigorous campaign in New Hampshire, as well. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman also is hoping for a good showing in the state, after passing on the Iowa contest.
The Iowa victory could help fuel a comeback by Senator Kerry in New Hampshire. He has lagged in the polls there, but is well known because he is from neighboring Massachusetts.