KWAME HOLMAN: Massachusetts Senator John Kerry's victory last night was much tighter than polls had predicted. When the votes were tallied, Kerry had 40 percent, just six points ahead of North Carolina Senator john Edwards. But Kerry, who now has won all but two of the 17 contests so far, said a win is a win.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: The motto of the state of Wisconsin is, "forward." And I want to thank the state of Wisconsin for moving this cause and this campaign forward tonight here in this great state. I thank you so much. (Cheers and applause)
Every week across our country wherever we go we're feeling the power of change that is sweeping across this nation, the desire for change to come to America.
KWAME HOLMAN: Edwards reveled in his surprisingly strong showing.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: Today the voters of Wisconsin sent a clear message. The message was this: "Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear." ( Cheers and applause )
KWAME HOLMAN: Making the rounds on morning television programs, Edwards had this explanation for his last minute surge.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: I think a couple of things. One is my message about jobs and trade, and trying to protect jobs and create jobs I think finally got through. And we had a debate on Sunday night where Wisconsin voters got to see us up close. And then on Monday, I got the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper, and they made the case in that endorsement that I was the most electable against George Bush, because I could attract independents that we have to get to win. I think it was probably a convergence of all those things.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today at a town hall meeting in Dayton, Ohio, Kerry kept his focus on only one opponent: President Bush.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: And as we walk down the street here, you can just feel the pain and the anxiety at the way in which the heart has been ripped out of the heartland by an economic policy that doesn't remain connected to the real lives of real people in this country.
So here's what I pledge to you, the same thing President Clinton pledged when he ran for president: I will cut the deficit in half in the first four years, and I will ask America to make a choice with me. We are going to roll back George Bush's unaffordable, inexcusable, uneconomic tax cut for the wealthiest people in this nation, and we're going to invest in education, health care, health care, cities, and the future of our country. That's what we're going to do.
KWAME HOLMAN: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean's third- place showing, with just 18 percent of the vote, ended his campaign. Congressman Dennis Kucinich campaigned in Ohio today, while the Reverend Al Sharpton gave a speech in Atlanta. Both men earned low single-digit percentages in Wisconsin yesterday.
AL SHARPTON: We must expand the electorate in the Democratic Party. Bring back labor, bring back people of color, bring back young people, bring back the disillusioned, and out of an expanded base, then deal with who is electable to them. I think that we run the risk of trying to play to a crowd too small for victory because we don't want to hear dissident voices, that if we heard them, we wouldn't have had George W. Bush in the first place.
KWAME HOLMAN: Three states-- Idaho, Utah, and Hawaii-- hold contests next Tuesday. But the big prize comes March 2, Super Tuesday, when ten states pick their Democratic delegates.