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Polls Show Kerry Could Solidify Frontrunner Standing After Tuesday Primaries - 2004-01-30


Public opinion polls indicate that Senator John Kerry could solidify his standing as the frontrunner for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination this coming Tuesday when primaries and caucuses will be held in seven states.

Of the seven contests on Tuesday, polls show Senator Kerry leading in Missouri and Arizona and close to the lead in Oklahoma and South Carolina. Delaware, New Mexico and North Dakota are also choosing delegates on Tuesday to the Democrat's national nominating convention, which will be held in Boston in late July.

Senator Kerry is hoping to build on the momentum he established with early victories in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

On Friday, he promised a return to the economic boom years of the Clinton administration if he is elected president. Senator Kerry spoke at a candidate's forum in South Carolina.

"And if you liked the eight years of the economy under Bill Clinton, you are going to love the first four years under John Kerry because we are going to repeat the same thing," he said.

For the other six Democrats in the race, the February 3 primaries represent an opportunity to slow down the Kerry momentum and maybe establish some of their own.

North Carolina Senator John Edwards has said he has to win in South Carolina to boost his campaign. Senator Edwards emphasized his southern roots at a voter forum in South Carolina on Friday.

"I grew up the way you grew up," said Sen. Edwards. "I come from the same place. I have spent 20 years in courtrooms fighting for you, against big corporate America, against big insurance companies. I will never forget where I come from and you can take that to the bank!"

Meanwhile, retired General Wesley Clark and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman are looking to break through on February 3, with victories in Oklahoma and Delaware respectively.

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean is also looking for a win somewhere on February 3 to boost his candidacy. Mr. Dean was the early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination but now is struggling after disappointing finishes in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mr. Dean has replaced his campaign manager and has asked his campaign staff to go without pay for a few weeks in a cost-saving move.

Senator Kerry is counting on Democrats nationwide to now get behind his campaign following his early success in Iowa and New Hampshire. Political experts like Tom DeFrank, Washington bureau chief for the New York Daily News, say history is on his side.

He was a guest on VOA's Issues in the News program.

"Politics is a momentum game," he said. "He is poised now to win some more primaries in the week ahead. And I think his main competition, Howard Dean, has more or less collapsed.

Democratic voters rank the economy, health care and education as among their top domestic priorities. But the New Hampshire vote also showed that many Democrats are most concerned with choosing the strongest candidate to face President Bush in the November election.

Fred Barnes is an editor with the Weekly Standard magazine here in Washington. He also appears on Issues in the News.

"It usually doesn't happen," said Fred Barnes. "It is a rarity in American politics. But it certainly showed up in the [voter] exit polls in New Hampshire where about a third of the Democratic voters said they picked their candidate because of electability. And almost all of those people went with John Kerry."

At stake in the February 3 primaries are 269 candidates. That is more than 12 percent of the 2,162 delegates need to secure the nomination.

Most analysts believe the Democratic race will be effectively decided by the so-called "Super Tuesday" primaries on March 2 when 10 states, including California, New York and Ohio, hold primaries or caucuses.