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Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Look Ahead After Kerry Victories - 2004-02-04

The Democratic presidential candidates are focusing on Saturday's contests in Michigan and Washington, following Senator John Kerry's primary election victories Tuesday in five of seven states. The wins strengthen Senator Kerry's status as the Democratic frontrunner to challenge President Bush in November.

Senator Kerry demonstrated broad national appeal, winning convincing victories from the east coast state of Delaware to Arizona in the west.

The wins solidify his status as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to challenge President Bush for the White House.

"George Bush who speaks of strength has made America weaker - weaker economically, weaker in education, weaker in health care," said Mr. Kerry.

North Carolina Senator John Edwards won the most votes in South Carolina, and retired General Wesley Clark kept his campaign alive by winning a narrow victory in Oklahoma.

After the results were tallied, the Democratic field narrowed with Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman dropping out of the race.

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, says the primaries and caucuses are generating excitement among party members, who want to see President Bush replaced.

"We got a great primary season going on, but the most exciting thing is record turnouts in all of these primary states," said Mr. McAuliffe. "Last night in Oklahoma, three times more Democrats showed up than ever in the history of the state; same in South Carolina, same we had in Iowa, same thing in New Hampshire. There is excitement about beating George Bush. You can feel it. People are turning out in record numbers."

On Saturday and Sunday, the next round of contests will be held in Michigan, Washington State, and Maine.

The nomination could be defacto decided March 2 on what is called Super Tuesday, when delegate-rich states, including New York and California, hold primaries. The delegates choose the candidate at the Democratic National Convention in July.

The Democratic Party field also includes former frontrunner Howard Dean, civil rights activist Al Sharpton, and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.