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Kerry's 2 Main Rivals Vow to Continue Campaigning - 2004-02-12


Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is the clear favorite to win the Democratic Party's presidential nomination after winning 12 of the first 14 state primaries and caucuses. But two main rivals are vowing to continue their campaigns, at least for the next few weeks.

The Kerry campaign got on track with a first place finish in Iowa in January, the first test for the Democratic presidential field, and has not looked back since.

Senator Kerry has won contests in all regions of the country and has only lost primary elections in two states - to Senator John Edwards in South Carolina and another to retired General Wesley Clark in Oklahoma.

General Clark ended his campaign this week after disappointing finishes in Virginia and Tennessee. But Senator Edwards and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean are continuing their campaigns, despite increasingly long odds and hope to stop the Kerry bandwagon Tuesday in the Wisconsin primary.

Senator Edwards explained why he is staying in the race in an interview on NBC's Today program.

"I am the candidate, if you look at the exit polling in these various primaries, who is attracting independents and the kind of voters we have to have to win the general election," he said. "We still have a long way to go in this race and you are right about one thing, it does look like it is narrowing down to a two-person race between Senator Kerry and myself and I am in this for the long haul. I intend to be the nominee."

Senator Kerry has already won about a quarter of the nearly 2,200 delegates he needs to secure the Democratic Party's presidential nomination at the national convention to be held in July in Boston.

But despite his big lead in the delegate count, both Senator Edwards and former Governor Dean continue to insist that they would be stronger candidates against President Bush in the November election.

Many Democrats say they would like to see Senator Kerry pick Senator Edwards as his vice presidential running mate if Senator Kerry winds up being the Democratic nominee.

University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato says John Edwards' campaigning skills would make him a popular choice. But he cautions that even if Senator Kerry is able to nail down the nomination in the next few weeks, it might be a long time before he settles on a running mate.

"Today's poll figures will not be the poll figures that will be operative in July," said Larry Sabato. "That is why nominees try to wait until a week or two prior to the convention to make that critical choice of the vice presidential candidate."

After Tuesday's test in Wisconsin, the remaining Democratic contenders will set their sights on the so-called 'Super Tuesday' contests on March 2 when 10 states hold primaries or caucuses including the delegate-rich states of California, New York and Ohio.

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