Pumped by back-to-back victories and eager to take their newfound momentum for a spin, supporters drowned out John Kerry's New Hampshire victory speech Tuesday night with shouts of, "Bring it on! Bring it on! Bring it on!"
But not so fast. Only 67 delegates have been claimed. That means there's 98.5 percent to go. It's a long haul ahead -- especially when you consider that the candidates have spent more than $3.5 million in advertisements this past week alone. With the February 3 primaries six days away, it's time to see who can be seven states wide and many, many dollars deep.
Kerry lacks regional ties to the states ahead, but he's got a winner's spark. Howard Dean just placed a respectable second in New Hampshire and is deciding whether to target his strong states or to go for all seven. Wesley Clark's third-place finish is a portent: He'd better win soon or it will be time to say goodbye.
John Edwards secured Tuesday's fourth-place slot, then hopped a jet to his native South Carolina (45 delegates), where he awoke this morning set to energize perhaps the most important leg of his campaign. Edwards considers South Carolina a must-win state. His 5-point lead in the polls is promising, but neither Clark nor Al Sharpton are going to let Edwards filch the delegates here without a fight. While Clark spent $644,000 on New Hampshire media buys, he's already sunk more than $1 million into South Carolina ads, touting his southern-moderate military creds.
Clark also has Buffalo Soldiers (get-out-the-vote advocates who helped Bill Clinton's campaign in years past and are named after 19th-century black soldiers) canvassing black neighborhoods -- smart in a state where about 50 percent of primary voters will be black. Sharpton's had the most consistent South Carolina presence, and he spent Tuesday meeting and greeting in mid-50s temperatures while his competitors shivered up North. It will be interesting to see how the New Englanders do in this, the first southern primary. And don't forget Kerry. He's been endorsed by South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings, as well as the leader of the state's legislative black caucus, and he, too, wants a piece of the Palmetto.
Nonetheless, South Carolina isn't Kerry's top priority Wednesday. Instead, the senator breaks straight for Missouri (74), which is February 3's most important (delegate-wise), and most ignored, state. Originally pegged as territory friendly to Dick Gephardt, not one candidate has bought TV time here -- not surprising seeing as it's too expensive for the limited exposure -- but Kerry has $1.5 million to burn on ads this week, so stay tuned. During his St. Louis visit, Kerry also anticipates endorsements from former Senators Jean Carnahan and Tom Eagleton. Not to be outdone, Edwards will come for a visit later on Wednesday, and he'll eventually hit four cities stretching all the way from the Gateway Arch to Kansas City. Dean, Clark, and Joe Lieberman might visit later this week.
The candidates will also participate in a Missouri debate on February 2. Nearby Oklahoma (40) viewers will see a familiar face in Edwards, who has visited the state twice as often as other candidates, leads in endorsements, and is polling second to Clark by just 5 points. Clark will tap into Oklahoma military types, including numerous veterans and the state's four military bases. He, Edwards, and Lieberman are all on TV, as was Dean last September. And, if he's still around, Lieberman might make an appearance; he has staff on the ground and a sister in Norman. Oklahoma ballots had been printed pre-Iowa, so Gephardt will remain an option here despite his recent departure.
Just one month ago, John Kerry was but a whisper in Arizona (55), trailing six other candidates in the polls. But Iowa vibes go far, and Kerry's victory catapulted him 2 points ahead of Clark, who's pumped the most money into Arizona endeavors. Lieberman's spent the most time here to date, but he, Kerry, Clark, and Dean have all vowed to visit Arizona at least once more before the primary. And, because his staff did such a good job the first time around, Kerry has recently relocated 20 of his Iowa campaign workers to the Arizona effort. This state is second prize on February 3, but no candidate has committed to a visit on election night.
Both Arizona and New Mexico (26) will give us the first glimpse at southwestern Hispanic voters; more than 40 percent of those states' Democratic voters are Hispanic. Dean started targeting New Mexico's Hispanic businesses and organizations back in summer 2003, and Kerry has been doing Hispanic outreach as well. Clark friend and former Ambassador Ed Romero works the phones here on the general's behalf, and Clark will follow up with four visits this week. Clark calls this his "True Values Tour," intended to win some of the vet votes away from Kerry, who leads late January polls at 37 percent. (Edwards and Dean trail, each 23 points behind). Some New Mexico voters have shown a strong affinity for Dennis Kucinich, but he's losing appeal with all this talk about "electability."
This criterion also proves worrisome for Lieberman, who has announced that he will drop out of the race if he can't snag a February 3 victory. Delaware (15) seems to be his best shot, as Lieberman is the only candidate to have visited the First State (with the exception of two Sharpton appearances). Delaware Dems have a habit of supporting whoever shows up, but union leadership will also play a role, as will the results trickling down from New Hampshire.
And while it seems that six states would distract from North Dakota (14) efforts, Kerry has five full-time staffers, including the man formerly in charge of his Iowa operation, on the ground here and has promised to visit again before the caucuses. After his Iowa bump, Edwards also set up a North Dakota team and hired a field organizer from Gephardt's campaign. Clark, the only candidate on North Dakota TV right now, has four full-time staffers and is considering a third trip this weekend. His campaign's internal polling has shown Clark out in front of his competitors. Dean also has a presence, having lured 900 people to a Fargo rally just last month. According to the state party's executive director, North Dakotans aren't used to all this attention, so "the person who comes to this state and conveys a message on the ground is going to win."
February 3 puts a total of 269 delegates on the block, more than 10 percent of the 2,162 needed to win the nomination. Michigan (128) and Washington state (76) -- the first industrial state to vote and an anti-war Dean stronghold, respectively -- come along just four days later. Michigan will be hard fought, but Kerry seems to be picking up support now that Gephardt's gone. Dean's Washington organization is yet unmatched, but Kerry has deployed a dozen Iowa staffers here to boost his force.
Heidi Pauken is the Prospect's assistant editor.
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