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Super Tuesday Countdown

By David Paul Kuhn,
CBSNews.com Chief Political Writer


As the largest prize of the primary season nears, Sen. John Kerry leads in all ten states holding contests on March 2, Super Tuesday.

This ostensibly two-man race between Sen. John Edwards and Kerry on Tuesday holds 1,151 delegates, half the amount necessary to shore-up the Democratic nomination.

Although polls show the Massachusetts senator may sweep the ten races, even with a poor showing Edwards will walk away with some delegates. The North Carolina senator vows he will stay in the race no matter what happens on Tuesday.
So far, Kerry has won 18 of 20 contests nationwide. He has 748 delegates, according to a CBS News tally, three times as many as Edwards' 240. Edwards' problem is one of numbers: the math, not just the momentum, is mounting up against him.

Edwards has one last chance to slow Kerry's surge this Sunday in New York, at the CBS News/WCBS-TV/New York Times debate, which will be carried by more than 75 percent of CBS stations nationally. In Thursday night's debate in Los Angeles, Edwards refused to confront Kerry head on, again begging the question whether he is ready to risk alienating Kerry by confronting him, which is necessary if Edwards' is to wrestle votes to his camp.

Even with the most optimistic of outcomes on Super Tuesday – say, if Edwards wins Ohio and Georgia, and places well enough in New York to gain some delegates – he still looks highly unlikely to gain the necessary surge. Even under this scenario, he'll still walk away with only about 480 delegates; while Kerry, with expected wins in California and New York, as well as the five New England states, will earn 682 delegates. This would bring Kerry's delegate count above 1,400, giving him a 2-to-1 edge over Edwards.

If Edwards has such a strong showing on Tuesday – and the polling is against him – he will surely stay on another week until Southern Tuesday, March 9, the second-largest contest of the primary season. And although at first blush you would think electoral giants like Florida and Texas, as well as the deeply southern state of Mississippi, would lean towards Edwards, Kerry remains the favorite.

The Massachusetts senator's dominant support among African Americans is worth a great deal of currency in the March 9 states, where blacks make up a significant portion of Democratic voters. This, combined with his seemingly unstoppable momentum, makes Kerry the favorite to put most of the 465 March 9 delegates into his coffer.

To win the Democratic nomination a candidate must win 2,161 delegates. And with delegate-rich states like Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey following March 9, and Kerry heavily favored in all of them, Edwards needs a huge upset on Super Tuesday to have any hope of stealing the momentum.

Kerry is hoping for a knockout punch on March 2, which a sweep (certainly within his grasp) would virtually guarantee. Edwards is looking for a strong showing nationwide (specifically in states like Georgia and Ohio), giving him a bounce to Southern Tuesday and the final heavyweight bout of the Democratic primary season. But when a closer look is taken, Edwards has a hard fight ahead.

California – 370 delegates

California is a country in its own right, and campaigning here is no small task. Edwards is trailing heavily in this cornerstone of Democratic states, which carries about a third of Super Tuesday's total delegates. The Los Angeles Times tracking poll shows Kerry likely to get 60 percent of the vote, to Edwards' 19 percent. His lead has shown no sign of letting up.

Although California is an open primary, allowing independents to vote, this constituency does not look likely to bounce Edwards to a close second, as it did in Wisconsin. Edwards has consistently gotten his highest percentage of support among non-Democrats, but unfortunately for him, this is a Democratic race and appeal that would translate in a general election simply has not held sway in the primaries.

Edwards began his California climb Wednesday, campaigning in Claremont, Fresno, Sacramento and San Francisco, completing is stint at Thursday's debate in Los Angeles.

After the debate, Kerry spent his Friday speaking in L.A., where he blasted President Bush on the war on terror. He also demanded Mr. Bush press the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, to allow the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks an extension, as the bi-partisan group requested. Rep. Hastert denied that extension on Thursday but on Friday, he agreed to give the independent panel an extra two months to finish.

Kerry completed his campaigning in California with a stop in Oakland Friday afternoon, spending the bulk of his time quiet on the foremost California issue of the day, gay marriage (notwithstanding Tuesday's vote on Proposition 57 and 58, regarding balancing the woeful state budget – digressing: these propositions plus California's usually too-late primary mattering this year, means turnout should be high).

On Thursday, actress Rosie O'Donnell was married in San Francisco to her longtime girlfriend, joining the more than 3,300 city marriage licenses that have been issued to gay couples in defiance of California law.

At Thursday night's debate, when asked, both Edwards and Kerry reiterated their opposition to same-sex marriage as well as their stance against a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, backed by President Bush. Both Kerry and Edwards believe the definition of marriage should remain a state issue.

New York – 236 delegates

With Sunday's debate in New York likely to be the final one of the primary season, both Edwards and Kerry will campaign here on Sunday and possibly Monday. Nevertheless, Kerry is positioned to win New York by a wide margin. According to the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, Kerry leads Edwards 60 percent to 21 percent, among likely voters.

But Kerry isn't taking the Empire State for granted. He's stumped with Rep. Charles Rangel on Rangel's home turf of Harlem, raised money on Park Avenue and Central Park West, and went to the outer boroughs to speak of job losses in labor-rich Queens. On Sunday, following the debate he will head to Buffalo, hard-hit by job loss, for a town-hall meeting.

Virtually every New York Democratic bigwig has backed Kerry, in a city where Democrats outweigh Republicans five to one, and in a state where Democrats hold sway four to one.

And if Kerry wasn't already standing strong enough here, his momentum in the Empire State was boosted Thursday when The New York Times endorsed him. The Gray Lady said Edwards "has been terrific on the campaign trail," but on occasion, "his lack of experience shows." Kerry, on the other hand, "exudes maturity and depth."

After Edwards' strong second in Wisconsin on Feb. 17, his first campaign stop was New York. Having spent five days weaving in and out of the Empire State, Edwards went upstate to Rochester and downstate to New York City. He will campaign in New York again on Sunday, following the debate.

But Edward's efforts have done little for him in the polls. In the same way Kerry faced a cultural gap in the South, one might conjecture Edwards faces the same in the North, and nothing is more North than New York.

Ohio – 140 delegates

On Wednesday in Toledo, Kerry received the endorsement of Ohio's most-loved Democrat, former Sen. John Glenn, NASA's clean-cut hero of the Apollo program. But Kerry's candidacy had already taken off in this state hard-hit by job losses.

Ohio lost 67,000 jobs last year and 246,700 since President Bush took office, the second most in the United States. Edwards hope to upset Kerry on Tuesday may depend on Ohio where his best chance exists, due to the extreme job loss. Polls show, to no one's surprise, that the economy is the number one issue to Ohioans.

With this traditional-labor emergency, one would think the Democratic populist Edwards would fair best. Putting aside his all-American charms, Edwards "Two America" stump speech targets the economically disenfranchised and he opposes the North American Free Trade Agreement in its current form. He will pay one more visit to Cleveland on Saturday, no doubt asking voters there to "join him in this fight."

Yet Kerry is still the favorite in Ohio, where he will campaign here for the last time on Monday. In the state hardest hit by job losses, Michigan, Kerry won half the vote. Ohio should follow suit. Again proving that for Democrats in 2004, it's electabilty, stupid!

Massachusetts – 93 delegates

There was time when former Gov. Howard Dean was the front-runner and one of his camp's favorite points was that Kerry was losing his home state. What a difference a month makes; in politics that is. By all estimates today, Kerry will win Massachusetts handily. This most liberal of liberal states will back its homegrown senator both due to electability (which is a confluence of momentum, heroic Vietnam veteran status and a demeanor perceived as presidential by voters). Of course, this is the state he has served for more than three decades, a state where his Boston Brahmin roots are thick.

Georgia – 86 delegates

This is the "must-win" state for Edwards, the one Southern contest of Super Tuesday. Edwards was born in South Carolina, spent his entire life in the South and throughout this campaign staked his candidacy on his Dixie appeal, where Democrats have been weakest since the civil rights movement. Yet even here, Kerry holds the lead over Edwards, however close.

The American Research Group's tracking poll has Kerry with 45 percent to Edwards' 37 percent in Georgia. One note of optimism for Edwards is that Georgia is one of five Super Tuesday states that allow independents to vote, a statistic favoring the North Carolina senator.

On Saturday, Edwards will campaign in Atlanta. Kerry will make one final stop here on Monday. In Edwards' corner is former Gov. Roy Barnes and an allotment of conservative white Democratic representatives, while ex-Sen. Max Cleland and three members of Congress, including Rep. John Lewis, are standing behind Kerry.

Like in every state, Edwards has defended his position on international trade here, hoping to define his candidacy as one that is behind renegotiating trade deals like NAFTA. Edwards campaigned mostly downstate (although he did stump in Augusta and Atlanta to court the black vote). Nearly half the voters on Tuesday will likely be African-American, if the breakdown of the 2000 presidential election serves as a guide. And when black votes count, candidates go to church. Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, attended the 20,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia.

Kerry, meanwhile, went where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, attending the Ebenezer Baptist Church. He has a 30-second ad running that should carry weight in the veteran-heavy Peach State. Touching on his Vietnam experience, the ad features Cleland (a triple amputee Vietnam vet) and is airing across the state. Former Gen. Wesley Clark, who after resigning his candidacy backed Kerry, has campaigned for the Massachusetts senator in Columbus, Macon and Albany, tracing Edwards' steps downstate.

Minnesota – 72 delegates

Kerry came to St. Paul Wednesday night to attend a rally at one of the Twin Cities' small liberal arts colleges. Although Edwards came to Minnesota last weekend and his wife campaigned through Monday, the only Midwestern state contested on March 2 should go where its fellows have – strictly behind Kerry. The Minnesota unions are broadly backing Kerry, as well.

Following an overflowing rally in St. Paul earlier in the week, Edwards is still fighting, the nice fight that is. On Friday afternoon, Edwards went to another tiny Twin City university where he is likely to continue to be very nice. He'll say nice things about Kerry, no doubt if pressed to distinguish himself. And he'll say nice things about Howard Dean, the former presidential candidate, because he wants that endorsement (oh, so very badly). Absent Dean, Edwards earned the backing of Minnesota Dean supporters on Friday, after the group met Thursday night.

In a statement, Edwards said: "Howard Dean's campaign is a tremendous force in Minnesota." The group and its several thousand activists said it will do its best to help Edwards reach voters in Minnesota. But with only a few days left, it is unclear if even the most ardent of Democratic activists, the Deaniac Storm Troopers, has that much reach.

Maryland – 69 delegates

A Mason-Dixon poll shows Kerry with 40-point margin over Edwards, to no surprise. After all, this is Maryland. On Tuesday, the state's two U.S. senators, Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, joined Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and dozen Democrats in a steam-roll of endorsements. Although, Edwards has not yielded the state (he campaigned here on Feb. 20 at a community college), the bulk of Maryland's Democratic establishment backs the Boston-bred Kerry.

However, Edwards' remains optimistic (is he ever not?) and the numbers show in this case he should be. Another poll by the American Research Group has Kerry only ahead by about 10 points. Taking these numbers seriously, Kerry is making one last stop in Maryland on Monday. For Edwards, a win in Maryland would mean more than the delegates he would earn. It would be a win in Kerry's backyard, reason for the southerner to stay on until Southern Tuesday.

In the meantime, both candidates are still courting Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, who had backed Dean before he resigned his candidacy. Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson, also a prominent Maryland black politician, has still not endorsed a candidate.

Connecticut – 49 delegates

Even when local Sen. Joe Lieberman was in this race, Kerry was beating him by a two-to-one margin, according to a University of Connecticut poll completed shortly before Lieberman quit the race. There is no reason to think Kerry won't wallop Edwards in this very New England state, where the state's largest teachers' union recently endorsed Kerry.

Rhode Island – 21 delegates

Three of the five Super Tuesday states that allow independents to vote are in New England (Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont). Whether or not a massive amount of Independents come out on Tuesday, the key word here is New England. Kerry will hold Rhode Island because on top of the math and momentum snowballing behind the Massachusetts senator, this is also his backyard. Following Edwards' strong showing in Iowa he placed a disappointing third in New Hampshire, and there is no reason to think history won't repeat itself here. And the recent endorsement by the state Democratic party chairman, William Lynch, only adds to Kerry's near-certain victory.

Vermont – 15 delegates

As if to evidence of the full-circle nature of this campaign, Edwards did not even get on the ballot in Vermont because it was the home state of Dean. During the height of the Dean campaign, at the close of 2003, none of the Democratic presidential hopefuls even dreamed of contesting Vermont. Now Vermont is all Kerry, who once trailed Dean in his home state. It is an irony that must nauseate Dean, who has yet to say if he will vote on March 2 or whose name he'll check off. But not even Dean's endorsement, deeply desired by Edwards, can get the North Carolina senator these 15 delegates.

By David Paul Kuhn