Massachusetts Senator John Kerry continued his winning ways, Tuesday, in the battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Senator Kerry narrowly defeated North Carolina Senator John Edwards. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean finished a distant third.
Senator Kerry held off a charging John Edwards to win in Wisconsin and remains the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination and face off against President Bush in the November election.
In thanking his Wisconsin supporters, Senator Kerry said he welcomed an election debate on the issue of national security.
"If George Bush, [White House political advisor] Karl Rove and [Republican Party Chairman] Ed Gillespie and company want to make national security the central issue of this campaign, we have three words for them we know they understand, bring it on," he said. "We are ready for that debate."
Senator Kerry has won 15 of 17 Democratic contests to date. But, the big story of the night was the strong second place showing by North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who now sees a two-man race with Senator Kerry for the Democratic nomination.
"The people of Wisconsin spoke loudly and clearly today. They want a debate," said Senator Edwards. "They want this campaign to continue. They want someone who will stand up and fight for them and fight for their jobs."
Poll exit surveys indicated many Wisconsin voters made up their minds in the last few days and that many of them threw their support to Senator Edwards. Mr. Edwards also did well among independents who voted in the primary and he says that would make him a stronger opponent against President Bush in November.
The most disappointing showing of the night came from former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. He finished a distant third in the voting and his advisors say he will now think long and hard about whether he should remain in the race.
Mr. Dean told his supporters in Wisconsin that, in his words, "We are not done yet". He also praised them for changing the direction of the Democratic Party.
"Finally, we've got a Democratic Party that talks about its roots again, its core issues again," he said. "Finally, Democrats in Washington have learned that they can stand up to the most right-wing president that we have had in my lifetime and that, guess what, if you stand up and you say what you believe, the voters actually like it."
The next test for the remaining Democratic candidates comes next Tuesday with a primary in Utah and caucus votes in Hawaii and Idaho.
But the major test will come in two weeks, when the so-called "Super Tuesday" primaries will be held in which ten states -- including delegate-rich states like California, New York and Ohio -- will hold primary elections that could largely determine who will be the Democratic Party's nominee for president.