Kerry carries the day....
Comeback kid trumps Dean; Edwards second
DES MOINES - John Kerry flattened Howard Dean last night, pulling off a storybook upset on Iowa's political field of dreams.
Kerry, the patrician Bostonian whose political obituary was written weeks ago, was the No. 1 choice of Iowa Democrats who trooped to their neighborhood caucuses in subzero temperatures.With about 98% of the precincts reporting, Kerry had 38%, John Edwards had 32%, Dean was a distant third with 18% and Dick Gephardt was fourth with about 11%."Thank you, Iowa, for making me the Comeback Kerry," said the Massachusetts senator after winning big in the first contest on the road to the Democratic nomination. "Iowa, I love you. You've set me on the way to the Super Bowl."
Dean gave a speech that was less a concession than a frenzied call to arms."We have just begun to fight!" Dean bellowed, shocking even the biggest fans of the pugnacious candidate with his style, not his speech's substance. "We want our country back for ordinary Americans."
Noting that he was only recently still considered a quirky dark horse, Dean tried to put a happy face on: "If you had told us one year ago that we would come in third in Iowa, we would have given anything for that." The former Vermont governor's aides said they spent so much time battling Gephardt that they let the other two candidates blindside them. Both men were the front-runners for weeks, but last night voters abandoned them for the two underdogs: Kerry and Edwards.
The results scrambled the primary race, putting new pressure on Dean to win big in New Hampshire next Tuesday, where he has led the polls for months.The margin of his defeat suddenly marks him as vulnerable - and gives Kerry the big momentum - just as the campaign enters a crucial phase.
Gephardt, a veteran congressman from Missouri and former speaker of the House, was utterly routed and will drop out of the race today.Edwards, whose sunny, Clintonesque persona won over many late-deciding voters, surged from single digits last week to a remarkably strong second place."We were the little engine that could," the North Carolina senator told supporters, and said his campaign proved that voters "believe in a positive, uplifting view to change America."
Kerry, known for his come-from-behind victories, had largely been written off last month as his support sagged and he fired half his staff.
He literally bet the house on a strong Iowa showing. Kerry mortgaged his Boston mansion to pay for ads showcasing his war heroism, legislative experience and sober presidential demeanor.The Iowa win will put rocket thrusters on his reviving campaign in New Hampshire.The results upended all the conventional wisdom about the caucuses and delivered a major blow to organized labor, which was widely touted to guarantee victory. Gephardt had the support of 21 industrial unions and Dean had two of the most politically important labor groups in his camp.
Dean also had imported 3,500 volunteers and had the backing of Iowa's most popular politician, Sen. Tom Harkin, as well as Al Gore and Bill Bradley, and a nod from former President Jimmy Carter.
But Iowans apparently did not care.
The battle now shifts to New Hampshire, where retired Gen. Wesley Clark, sailing smoothly up in the polls as other candidates squabbled in Iowa, is about to become the bull's-eye at the center of the dartboard. It remains to be seen whether Clark can hold his temper and his support better than Dean once the campaign trail gets crowded and the elbows start hitting Clark.
At Clark's campaign headquarters in Manchester, N.H., last night, aides intently watched the Iowa results as Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, swamped his rivals.
Asked about battling another candidate with a military background, Clark said, "It's one thing to be a hero as a junior officer - he's done that and I respect him for that. But I have military leadership at the top as well as at the bottom." Asked if he still considers this a "two-man race" in New Hampshire, where Dean holds a narrow lead in the polls, Clark said it was up to the voters.
He paused, then added, "I don't know what to call it now."
If you looked carefully Tiller...
The shirts read IAFF firefighters for Kerry.