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Democrats Campaign in Final Day Before Wisconsin - 2004-02-16

Before Tuesday's primary in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin, the five remaining candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination are spending one last day on the campaign trail. North Carolina Senator John Edwards got an important endorsement Monday, but Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts is still favored to win.

Supporters of Senator Edwards are crowing over an endorsement from Wisconsin's largest newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and good reviews for the senator's performance in Sunday's debate. Wisconsin debate experts and political analysts said Senator Edwards had performed the best in Sunday's debate.

The latest polls, which were done last week, indicate Senator Kerry has a commanding lead, with about 50 percent of the potential vote. Senator Edwards remains in a distant second place with around 16 percent.

The Journal Sentinel editorial endorsing Senator Edwards acknowledged Kerry's lead. He has won 14 of the 17 primaries and caucuses held so far. But the newspaper said Senator Edwards would be stronger for the long-distance campaign because he offers "the best combination of message and method." In the words of the editorial endorsement, "Edwards is smart, engaging and upbeat, comfortable before any audience and often inspiring."

Meanwhile the man who was considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination a little over a month ago, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, appears to be at the end of his campaign. Dean campaign chairman Steven Grossman has left the campaign after telling The New York Times that he was ready to support Senator Kerry if Mr. Dean lost in Wisconsin.

Governor Dean, who commands about 11 percent in the polls, had said he needed to win Wisconsin in order to stay in the race, but in recent days he changed that assessment, indicating he would stay in for the long haul.

That may be difficult, however, since his prospects in states holding primaries on March 2 appear no better. Crowds at some Dean rallies in Wisconsin have been thin, and there are reports that some Dean staffers are looking for jobs outside the campaign.