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Democrats Face Crucial Primary Elections in 10 States on Tuesday - 2004-02-28


The candidates for the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination are campaigning hard across the country in hopes of scoring victories Tuesday in delegate-rich states on the East and West coasts and in a potential battleground state in the Midwest. The so-called Super Tuesday primary elections in 10 states are critical to the two top candidates.

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is the clear front-runner in the race to be the Democratic party challenger to President Bush in November. All but one of his major competitors have fallen by the wayside as Mr. Kerry has notched up a series of wins in Democratic primaries from New Hampshire to Hawaii. The four-term senator has already won 744 of the two thousand 62 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Campaigning in New York, which will send 236 delegates to the party's nominating convention in July, Senator Kerry said by choosing him, voters would ensure that George Bush did not get a second term as president.

"We are here today to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush presidency. That is what this race is about. I ask for your help in New York City," he said.

But Senator John Edwards of North Carolina suggests the race is not over. He says he has a better chance of beating President Bush in November. Mr. Edwards, who is serving his first term in the United States Senate, says he can campaign as an "outsider." The son of a textile mill worker, John Edwards has focused much of his campaign on jobs lost to overseas workers and U.S. trade agreements that he says are responsible for the losses. He met with textile workers in New York.

"The concern is that you have a president [for whom unemployment] is just a number on a piece of paper. If you are just a statistic, it is never going to have the kind of impact; it will if they take it personally. I take this personally," he said.

Senator Edwards' supporters say their candidate can win in the south in November and draw key demographic groups - moderate voters and independents - in the important swing states that neither party can count on.

Fred Siegel, an urban analyst at The Cooper Union [University] in New York, says the New York vote is important this year because of the slim chance that Mr. Edwards can come from behind to win in New York.

"His strategy in New York is to focus on upstate, which has been devastated by the changes of the last 20 years," he said. "It has lost population. Companies that once dominated Rochester, for instance, like Kodak, are sharply cutting back on jobs. In the Hudson Valley, IBM has cut back on jobs. So there is fertile ground there for Edwards."

Undermining Mr. Edward's strategy, however, is the fact that most voters in New York's primary elections live in or around New York City, the center of Mr. Kerry's strength.

To stay in the race, analyst Fred Siegel says Senator Edwards must garner at least 40 percent of the vote in New York and win in the midwestern state of Ohio, which is expected to be one of most hotly contested states in November. In the 2000 election, President Bush won by a thin margin in Ohio, where the loss of manufacturing jobs has devastated the state's workforce.

One candidate, the Reverend Al Sharpton calls New York home. Mr. Sharpton, the only African-American in the race, has focused on urban issues.

"None of my opponents have laid out an urban agenda. They have come in with 'drive by' campaigns, smiling. The media is not asking 'What is your urban agenda? What are you going to do about overcrowded schools? What about hospitals?,'" he said.

Mr. Sharpton trails the other candidates and has not won the support of the city's leading African-American politicians.