Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and North Carolina Senator John Edwards were the big winners Tuesday in the battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Senator Kerry won big victories in five of the seven contests Tuesday while Senator Edwards won the South Carolina primary and was locked in a tight race in Oklahoma with retired General Wesley Clark and Senator Kerry.
It was another big night for John Kerry. The Massachusetts senator solidified his position as the Democratic frontrunner with decisive victories in Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico and North Dakota.
Senator Kerry celebrated with supporters in Washington State, which hosts a caucus vote on Saturday. "Now we carry this campaign and the cause of a stronger, fairer, more prosperous America to all parts of our country," he said. "And we will take nothing for granted. We will compete everywhere and in November we will beat George W. Bush."
But the night also belonged to North Carolina Senator John Edwards. He won the South Carolina primary by a comfortable margin over Senator Kerry and made a very strong showing in Oklahoma in tight battle for convention delegates with retired General Wesley Clark and Senator Kerry.
With his strong showing Tuesday, Senator Edwards has now apparently emerged as Senator Kerry's chief rival for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and the right to face off against President Bush in the November election.
Senator Edwards spoke to supporters in South Carolina. "We still live in two different Americas. Two different health care systems, two different public school systems, two tax systems, two governments, two economies. It doesn't have to be that way," he said. "You and I together, we are going to build one America that works for everybody."
Retired General Wesley Clark is also battling to stay in the fight for the Democratic nomination. He claimed a narrow victory in Oklahoma. "As an old soldier from Arkansas, I just couldn't be prouder of your support in this first election that I have ever won," he said.
But the Tuesday results held bad news for the other Democratic contenders. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman withdrew from the presidential race after a poor showing in Tuesday's seven primaries but promised to support the Democratic nominee in the November election. "But today, the voters have rendered their verdict and I accept it," he said. "And let me say this, I am ready to support our party's nominee and will do whatever I can to deny George Bush a second term and give the American people a fresh start."
It was another disappointing night for former Vermont Governor Howard Dean who was trying to rebound after earlier defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire. Despite several poor finishes on Tuesday, Mr. Dean told supporters he is in the race to stay. "What I want in this country and what I think every single person wants in this country is fundamental, institutional change and we are not going to get that with somebody from inside Washington," he said.
The battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination now heads to contests on Saturday in Michigan and Washington State. The race could be decided on March 2 when ten states, including the delegate-rich states of California, New York and Ohio, will hold primaries.