The ABBA Beat Goes On

Kerry rolls on, Clark drops out, and Bush gibbers like an idiot

And then there were five. Wesley Clark dropped out of the Democratic presidential race late Tuesday, as John Kerry strengthened his hold on the de facto front-runner slot by showing some appeal to Southern Democrats and winning both the Tennessee and Virginia primaries. Clark's decision had been rumored in advance, and in leaving the race he praised his Democratic opponents and said, "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."

Kerry won 41% of the vote in Tennessee – where Clark had declared he must win to continue; Clark (with 23%) and John Edwards (26%) split the anti-Kerry (or pro-Southern) vote. In Virginia, Kerry did even better (51%) and Clark even worse, with a mere 9%. Almost as remarkably, Howard Dean, who had roared into the campaign as the front-runner, descended to also-ran status in both states: 4% in Tennessee, 7% in Virginia. Only Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich trailed Dean in both states. Dean has fully turned his campaign's attention to Wisconsin's upcoming Feb. 17 primary, where polls still show him lagging badly behind Kerry – but he insists now that even if he loses in Wisconsin, he intends to continue.

The race for delegates remains more complicated. Kerry has over 500 of the 2,162 needed for nomination, but Dean remains second at 182, and in addition to hoping for a miracle may be considering some July convention horse-trading – although he said last week that he would not recommend Kerry choose another New Englander as his running mate. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (himself a VP prospect), chair of the national Dem convention in July, called for Democrats to rally around Kerry as the presumptive nominee to take on Bush.

Meanwhile, on the commander in chief front, President Bush appeared on Meet the Press with Tim Russert on Sunday to remind everybody, "I'm a war president." Bush tried to prop up his sinking poll numbers and fend off growing criticism by reporters who have now abruptly discovered that the "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq were a myth manufactured by the White House and its media friends. Bush defended his prewar "intelligence," said the job of CIA Director George Tenet is safe (probably a good moment for Tenet to talk to his real estate agent), and continued to defend the U.S. right to pre-emptive war against any nation deemed a "threat." Even conservative pundits spent all week attempting to explain away the president's sterling thought and discourse: "Saddam Hussein was dangerous with weapons. Saddam Hussein was dangerous with the ability to make weapons. He was a dangerous man in the dangerous part of the world. And I made the decision to go to the United Nations." That's their president!

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Election 2004, John Kerry, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, John Edwards, Meet the Press

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