Kerry Sweeps Primaries in Virginia, Tennessee
The victories dealt blows to the campaigns of Sen. John Edwards and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, both of which had hoped to do well in the South. Kerry dominated Virginia, winning more than half of the vote with North Carolina Sen. John Edwards trailing more than 20 points behind in second. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark came in a distant third followed closely by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean who did not campaign in the Old Dominion.
In Tennessee Kerry again scored a strong, double-digit victory, garnering some 40 percent of the vote. The real fight in the Volunteer state was for second where Edwards won with a strong 27 percent followed by Clark with 23 percent with 92 percent of the vote counted.
In his victory speech at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., the Massachusetts senator said his campaign would present Americans with a real choice in the fall and that he could challenge President Bush in the South as well as the rest of the nation.
“Americans are voting for change — East. West. North. And, now, in the South,” said Kerry. “I am grateful for that.”
“What we showed today is the mainstream values that I’ve been talking about, fairness and hope and hard work and love of country, are more important than boundaries and birthplace,” Kerry said.
As he has done in recent weeks, Kerry ignored his Democratic rivals and instead focused his message on the president.
“George Bush, who speaks of strength, has made America weaker — weaker economically, weaker in health care and education,” he said. “And the truth is — George Bush has made us weaker militarily by overextending our forces, overstraining our reserves and driving away our allies.”
This was only the second Democratic presidential primary held in Virginia and the first to hold such an early influential spot in the primary calendar.
During the campaign, Kerry has targeted the president for his record on the economy and the war in Iraq, and accuses him of leading an “extreme administration” that is pursuing an agenda outside mainstream American values.
“They believe it is good for our economy that over a million people have lost their jobs in America to the outsourcing that has taken place,” Kerry said after campaigning in Memphis, Tenn. “I will be a different kind of president.”
In addition to decisive victories in both states, Kerry gained the endorsement Tuesday of Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, one week ahead of that state’s primary.
Edwards, who came in second in both races, moved on to Wisconsin, where he would campaign Wednesday. In a speech there Tuesday night Edwards continued his campaign theme of two divided America’s, one of wealth and privilege, the other of Americans struggling for economic stability.
The Edwards campaign also unveiled new ads in Wisconsin that target the president’s handling of the economy.
“When you remember where you came from, you’ll always know where you’re going and what you need to fight for – real change that will give today’s families a chance to give their kids a better life,” Edwards said in one advertisement. “As president, that’s what I’ll fight for every day.”
For retired Gen. Wesley Clark, Tuesday’s results were a major blow. He had campaigned heavily, particularly in Tennessee, but struggled to make any headway against either Kerry or Edwards.
Despite some press reports that advisers were weighing ending the campaign, Clark told supporter he would continue his campaign.
“We may have the lost the battle today, but, I’ll tell you now, we are not going to lose the war for America’s future,” Clark told cheering supporters in Tennessee. “Our goal remains the same: to change the direction of our country and bring a higher standard of leadership to the White House.”
Howard Dean, who didn’t campaign in either Tennessee or Virginia, continued to focus his effort and advertising in Wisconsin, where voters head to the polls next Tuesday. Dean, who had told supporters he must win in the Badger state, said Monday he would remain in the race regardless of the results on Feb.17.
“The election next Tuesday is about whether you want to stand up for a progressive America again,” Dean told hundreds backers in Milwaukee.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich trailed a distant fifth and sixth in both states.
According to exit polls in Virginia and Tennessee, voters there continued to say they were seeking a candidate with the ability to defeat President Bush. The surveys were conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool of the major television networks and The Associated Press.
“Anybody but Bush,” said Charles Edwards, 50, of Falls Church, Va., who decided to vote for Kerry as he entered his voting booth. “I’d vote for the devil.”