John Kerry squeaked by John Edwards to claim a narrow victory in
Wisconsin’s open Democratic primary last night.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting last night, Sen. Kerry of
Massachusetts had captured 40 percent of the vote, barely ahead of
Sen. Edwards of North Carolina with 34 percent. Former Vermont Gov.
Howard Dean finished a distant third with 18 percent. Rep. Dennis
Kucinich of Ohio finished with 3 percent of the state delegate
equivalence and the Rev. Al Sharpton brought up the rear with 2
percent.

“A win is a win,” Kerry said to supporters.

Kerry’s victory came on the heels of a fortuitous
endorsement from retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who exited the race
after third-place finishes in Tennessee and Virginia in his native
South last week. It is his 15th win out of 17 nominating contests
held so far.

On Saturday, the Massachusetts senator celebrated first-place
finishes in caucuses in Nevada and the District of Columbia
Saturday.

Dean was the victor in D.C.’s nonbinding primary last
month. But he was the only candidate of those polling in the double
digits at the time to participate in the unofficial contest.

Dean originally said he would cease his efforts to win the
Democratic presidential nomination if he did not come out on top in
Wisconsin. He since has contradicted his statement and is unclear
if he will stay in the race.

“We are not done yet,” he declared last night.

Kerry expanded his labor credentials yesterday with an
endorsement from the Alliance for Economic Justice, an 18-union
coalition that backed Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri before his
early exit from the race after a fourth-place finish in last
month’s Iowa caucuses. The senator is expected to receive the
formal backing of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest union,
tomorrow.

Kerry currently leads the delegate count with more than triple
the number of delegates Dean has. Edwards, with 166 delegates
before last night’s primary, will soon surpass Dean in the
delegate race if he continues to finish ahead of the former
frontrunnerstate nominating contests Edwards won in South
Carolina.

Dean, who has yet to finish first in any contest, still leads
the senator in delegates because of his early accumulation of
unpledged delegates. Sharpton has 16 delegates, seven acquired in
Michigan. Kucinich remains in the running with two delegates.

The race moves next to Hawaii and Idaho, which hold their
caucuses Feb. 24, on the same day as Utah’s primary. These
contests are a prelude to “Super Tuesday” on March 2,
when 10 states determine the distribution of their pledged
delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July.

Former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley was forced to exit the 2000
presidential race when former Vice President Al Gore swept 16
states on Super Tuesday four years ago.

Unless Kerry’s rivals can engineer storybook turnarounds,
Super Tuesday, hailed as a national primary, may offer an easy
jackpot of delegates for the frontrunner and presumed nominee.

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