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Kerry Expected to Win Wisconsin Primary - 2004-02-17

Voters are going to the polls in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin in a primary contest that could represent the end of at least one candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Some of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean's aides and many analysts say he is likely to either suspend his campaign or quit the race if he loses. On Monday, the chairman of his campaign, Steve Grossman, abruptly quit after telling The New York Times newspaper that he would support Massachusetts Senator John Kerry if Mr. Dean loses in Wisconsin.

Howard Dean, however, dismisses the idea that his campaign is in trouble and has says he will continue regardless of the outcome here in Wisconsin.

Polls indicate Senator Kerry will continue his winning streak in Wisconsin. So far, he has won all but two of the contests. Opponents, however, note that he has gained less than a quarter of the delegates needed for nomination.

At a final Wisconsin rally in Milwaukee Monday, Senator Kerry focused his attacks on President Bush.

"We are not here just to mark the night before the primaries, the night before Wisconsin has an opportunity to contribute to this process, we are here tonight to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush presidency," he announced.

But North Carolina Senator John Edwards also crisscrossed the state Monday and presented himself as the best candidate to take on the president in November.

"This is the guy who can beat George Bush every place in America - in the North, in the West, in the Midwest and in the South," said Mr. Edwards.

The last polls conducted before the vote showed Senator Kerry far ahead, with around 50 percent, while Senator Edwards and Governor Dean compete for second place. Two other candidates, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and the Reverend Al Sharpton remain much further behind.

Wisconsin has an open primary, which means Republicans and independents can also cast votes for the Democratic candidates. Since President Bush is already regarded as the nominee for the Republicans, some are expected to cross over and vote in the Democratic contest. A conservative radio show host has suggested that Republicans should vote for the candidate they think would be the weakest against President Bush, but observers say this is not likely to have a significant effect on the outcome of the contest.