The race for the U.S. Democratic party presidential nomination shifts to the south Tuesday, with voters in Virginia and Tennessee taking part in primary contests to express their preference for who they'd like to see challenge President Bush in November. The balloting could provide an indication of how much strength New England native and Democratic front runner John Kerry has going into the south.

Polls in Virginia and Tennessee show Senator Kerry in the lead with North Carolina Senator John Edwards and retired General Wesley Clark battling for second place. Both are looking for wins that would transform the Democratic race into a one-on-one battle with front-runner Kerry, who spent Monday rallying voters in southern Virginia. "We're here today in Roanoke one day before you get to go to the polls, we're here to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush presidency," he said.

A decorated military veteran, Senator Kerry is hoping Virginia's large number of military personnel, the state is home to the Pentagon, will give him his first win in the south. Analysts say wins for the Massachusetts senator in Virginia and Tennessee would likely send a signal to voters across the south that North Carolina's John Edwards and retired General Wesley Clark, whose home state is Arkansas, are vulnerable in their home region.