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KWAME HOLMAN: The already front-running Democratic candidate John Kerry got an additional boost in warren Michigan today from former rival Dick Gephardt.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT: John Kerry has the life experiences, the personal character and strength, and the great ability to be a great president of the United States of America. Ladies and gentleman, greet the next president of the United States, John Kerry.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Massachusetts senator wants labor union support, something Gephardt had a lot of before he dropped out of the race two weeks ago. In his speech, Kerry praised the Missouri congressman.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I understand how difficult it is because I’ve lost before in my life, to turn around, come back, and just pick up the pieces and recognize that the whole deal is bigger than your individual hopes and your individual ambitions, aspirations, and particularly the investment of time.
No one has invested more time more diligently, with more commitment, with more passion about his roots, about working people, about the possibilities of this country, and about how politics can be better and our country can be better than the man who just endorsed me, Dick Gephardt. (Applause) He is one of the most extraordinary public leaders.
KWAME HOLMAN: The latest polls show Kerry with a commanding lead in Michigan, Maine and Washington state. All three hold caucuses this weekend. Tomorrow, Kerry will campaign in the South, ahead of primaries in Tennessee and Virginia on Tuesday.
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has spent considerable time in both of those Southern states, campaigning little for the Northern contests. Today he told supporters in Tennessee he would beat President Bush in the South.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: The Democrats have never elected a president, never elected a president who didn’t win at least five states. This is what you tell your friends about that: The South is not George Bush’s backyard. It’s my backyard, and I will beat George Bush in my backyard, and you tell your friends that. (Applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: Retired Gen. Wesley Clark also has targeted Virginia and Tennessee this week. Appearing at a diner in Nashville today, he told reporters his recent comments about Edwards and Kerry are not attacks.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (Ret.): These aren’t swipes, these are differences, and I think elections are about choices. The voters have to know what the differences are between the candidates. I’m an outsider, I’m not part of that Washington culture of money, access, influence and special interests that my other two opponents in the race are.
I’m a son of the South, I’m a veteran. John Kerry’s a good man. He says that Democrats don’t have to carry the South. I beg to differ. I don’t think we’ve had a Democrat who’s won the presidency without carrying the South in 40 years.
KWAME HOLMAN: Recent polls show former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean trailing Clark and Edwards in the South, and well behind Kerry in Michigan. Last night, Dean said Wisconsin’s primary in less than two weeks will be his last stand.
HOWARD DEAN: When you have momentum people vote for you even if they don’t know anything about you. Our decision to fight here and to win here was made because we believe that people are voting for Senator Kerry without knowing anything about him. This is going to be a fully contested, fully fought out primary the first one since Iowa and New Hampshire.
KWAME HOLMAN: Congressman Dennis Kucinich and the Rev. Al Sharpton both campaigned in Michigan today.