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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 February, 2004, 12:10 GMT
Media consider Edwards' chances

Is John Kerry now certain to become the Democrats' presidential nominee?

John Kerry
John Kerry celebrates another primary win

Most US commentators seem to think so, after the veteran senator won the Wisconsin primary - his 15th victory in 17 contests.

More surprising than Mr Kerry's victory - for many observers - was the support amassed by the youthful Southerner, John Edwards, who came in a strong second.

New York Times columnist William Safire wondered whether Mr Edwards could yet mount a credible challenge to Mr Kerry on Super Tuesday, 2 March - a day when 10 states hold contests.

Mr Safire suggests Mr Edwards' profile could be buoyed by Howard Dean - the one-time favourite for the nomination, whose poor showing in the primaries has effectively ended his run.

"Although Dean is not a kingmaker, he can be a frontrunner-maker," writes Mr Safire.

(John Edwards) is saying 'I can get all the votes John Kerry can get and votes that he can't'
Jeff Greenberg, CNN

Had Mr Dean quit the race before the Wisconsin, Mr Safire believes the bulk of his supporters would have flocked to John Edwards' camp.

Mr Safire suggests Mr Dean could remain in the race until Super Tuesday, before directing his supporters towards Mr Edwards.

That way, what ought to be a routine coronation for Mr Kerry will instead become "a neck-and-neck race down the homestretch".

Edwards' options

The Los Angeles Times seemed more sceptical about Mr Edwards' chances of staging a late comeback to overtake Mr Kerry.

Edwards' larger problem is that Kerry still won in Wisconsin. Always finishing second, as every Boston Red Sox fan knows, at some point looks less like a moral victory than a defeat
Ronald Brownstein, LA Times
"Candidates trying to recover from initial defeats, like Edwards, have been able to rebound only when they have been able to find arguments that shear large constituencies from the front-runner," wrote the paper's analyst, Ronald Brownstein.

That constituency, he said, will not be easy to identify.

Mr Edwards could try to target "blue-collar, non-college educated voters sympathetic to his tough-on-trade message" - but, said Mr Brownstein, his job would be made harder because powerful labour unions had already pledged their support for Mr Kerry.

The Washington Post pointed out that Mr Edwards' strong showing in Wisconsin was down to the fact that the "open primary" rules also allowed Republicans and independents to vote.

John Edwards
All eyes will be on Edwards for Super Tuesday

Many of them were late converts to Mr Edwards' message - but, the Post's Dan Balz warned, "winning Democrats is the key to winning the nomination".

He said the close competition between the Mr Edwards and Mr Kerry worked to the latter's advantage by keeping him in the limelight.

However, Mr Balz said John Edwards might want to avoid creating too much tension with John Kerry - this could destroy his chances of being picked to run for the vice-presidency.

Dean undone

Television pundits echoed the newspapers' view that John Edwards faces an uphill struggle.

There were two stories tonight, said CNN anchorwoman, Judy Woodruff.

The first story, she said, is that "John Kerry has pulled off another win."

The second story, she said, is John Edwards.

"Two nights ago, John Edwards said, 'Not so fast, John Kerry.' And he made good on the promise."

But, Ms Woodruff added, "no matter how close John Edwards came, John Kerry is still the odds-on favourite to win this race".

Howard Dean, Democratic candidate for president
Analysts say Mr Dean could still pay a pivotal role
Jeff Greenberg of CNN said that the senator from the South is making the argument that between John Kerry and him, he is the most electable - the top priority for Democrats.

"(John Edwards) is saying 'I can get all the votes John Kerry can get and votes that he can't'," Mr Greenberg added.

Unless things change pretty quickly, John Kerry will have the nomination wrapped up by early this spring, Mr Greenberg said.

Bill Kristol said on Fox News that John Edwards must win not only California but several other states on Super Tuesday.

While John Edwards surged, Howard Dean had another disappointing result, and now pundits await his exit.

At Howard Dean's campaign headquarters in Wisconsin, Ron Allen of MSNBC said, "It's another half-empty room here, which is metaphor for what's been happening to the Dean campaign."

"For all intents and purposes, this is the end of the road," he said.

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