Published January 29, 2004
Still gathering momentum after his New Hampshire triumph, Democratic front-runner John Kerry (search) pocketed fresh endorsements from the party establishment on Wednesday as rival Howard Dean (search) shook up a campaign in peril.
"I still have the same underdog mentality," Kerry said as he left Boston for Missouri, the first of seven states on a campaign itinerary leading to next week's round of balloting.
After losing two races he thought he was going to win, Dean shook up his staff in an effort to get his campaign back on track.
"Nobody is leaving" but "there may be some additions," the former Vermont governor said.
Roy Neel (search), long associated with Al Gore, will become the campaign's CEO. It was reported that campaign manager Joe Trippi (search) may stay on the payroll. But sources close to the Dean campaign told Fox News that Trippi is leaving the campaign altogether.
"Governor Dean asked Roy Neel to join the campaign as CEO and Joe Trippi resigned as campaign manager," said Dean campaign spokeswoman Tricia Enright.
There's some discord among Dean staffers over which of the seven Feb. 3 states Dean should focus on instead of spreading himself too thin. But "we're going to try everywhere," Dean said.
"I think he's toast, I think his campaign is over," Dick Harpootlian, the former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, told Fox News. "I think it's a Kerry-Edwards race and I think it's going to be decided right here, in South Carolina, next week."
The move came as the other Democratic candidates fanned out across seven states to try to clinch the next big slew of races in their bids to run against President Bush in November.
Those Feb. 3 races signify the first real test of a candidate's national appeal with 269 Democratic convention delegates up for grabs.
Candidates are trying to catch Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, who made it two for two Tuesday night after winning the New Hampshire primary and scoring his first big victory in the Iowa caucuses last week. Kerry's campaign has launched television commercials in all seven of next week's primary states.
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search), who took fourth place in the Granite State primary — fewer than 900 votes behind third-place winner Wesley Clark (search) — kicked off his "Bringing It Home" South Carolina tour Wednesday, while Clark, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich (search) and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (search) participated in events in Oklahoma. Dean was scheduled to travel to Missouri this week but was spending Wednesday giving interviews in Vermont.
The Show Me State, South Carolina, Arizona, Delaware and Oklahoma will hold primaries Feb. 3. New Mexico and North Dakota will hold caucuses. More than 21 million people will be involved in those races.
"Feb. 3 can be very important because of the diversity of the states that are coming up for the primaries," said Ron Faucheaux, editor of the "Faucheaux Analysis." "It gives the candidates an opportunity to get out into the country and it's going to become very difficult for anybody to have a claim on this nomination if they haven't carried at least one or two states at that point.
"It's also important to show that these candidates have national appeal, that they haven't just concentrated their support and their money and their organization in one or two places, but actually can run a national campaign."
Kerry had 38 percent of the vote in New Hampshire; Dean took second place with 26 percent; Clark took third place with 12 percent; Edwards trailed Clark by only 839 votes to take fourth place; and Lieberman had 9 percent. Kucinich got 1 percent.
Kerry, who planned to hopscotch around the Feb. 3 states in the next few days, has a good shot of winning in every one of those states, campaign staff told Fox News.
Endorsements and Cash
Kerry will also add another notch in his campaign belt Thursday when he picks up coveted endorsements from Rep. Jim Clyburn (search) of South Carolina and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (search ). Vilsack's wife, Christie, earlier endorsed Kerry and campaigned actively with him throughout Iowa.
"He's the Democrat best positioned to provide President Bush with the strongest debate and the best chances for success in the fall," Gov. Vilsack said of Kerry.
Former Sens. Jean Carnahan and Tom Eagleton in Missouri also endorsed Kerry.
As he boarded a plane for St. Louis, Kerry said he was thrilled with the endorsements, and added, "I'm still going to make this a campaign about people. We have to build. We have to grow."
Kerry has raked in $1.2 million since Iowa. His aides confirm they're hoping to take in another $4 million to $5 million this week. Staunch Kerry supporter Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts is putting pressure on big Democratic donors and labor groups to help in that area.
Dean aides say his campaign has taken in $1.5 million since his third-place finish in Iowa. He raised $100,000 Wednesday morning alone, staff said.
Dean is counting on money and help from the big labor groups, SEIU and AFSCME, and his loyal Internet donors.
"People are continuing to bring dollars to the campaign," Steve Grossman, Dean's national campaign chairman, told Fox News. "We need to be competitive, we need to win somewhere and I think that's pretty obvious to everybody."
Edwards said contributions continued to flow into his campaign based on his Iowa finish.
States Up for Grabs
Whereas most candidates have some sort of leg up on the other in various New England and Southern states, other states may be a whole new ball game.
There is no "favorite son" in Arizona, for example, where 55 of 64 delegates are up for grabs, Jim Pederson, chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, told Fox News, giving any candidate a chance to win that state.
"Democrats in Arizona are looking for somebody who can win, who can go toe-to-toe with President Bush in November," Pederson said.
An Arizona State University/KAET poll released Wednesday shows Kerry, Clark, Edwards and Dean all bunched closely together. About 54 percent of the 455 registered Democrats surveyed from Jan. 24-25 were undecided.
The 30 percent of Arizona voters who are undecided also likely will play a major factor, much like they did in New Hampshire. Another 30 percent of the electorate are from minority groups — 25 of whom are Hispanics — so Arizona is seen as a litmus test for the minority vote and the mature vote, as well.
"It's the first true test in the West ... there's no favorites on candidates here, you have a very diverse population," Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano told Fox News. "I suspect our undecided vote is still about 50 percent of the Democrats so it's going to be a horserace out here for the next couple of days ... Arizona's up for grabs."
In Missouri, Kerry has a lead over his Democratic presidential rivals but many residents are still undecided about whom to support, according to a poll conducted for The Kansas City Star and television station KMBC. Kerry had 25 percent support — nearly three times that of any other Democrat — but 35 percent are undecided.
South Carolina, considered a battleground state by all candidates except Dean, has 45 of its 55 delegates up for grabs. The economy and number of jobs lost in the Palmetto State are expected to be big issues in next week's race.
'If You Can't Take the Heat …'
During campaign stops in Tulsa, Okla., on Wednesday, Clark said he has a plan to help working Sooner Staters, but needs their vote to do it.
Clark grew up in Arkansas and emphasized tax relief for working families, health care for children and federal scholarships for college-bound students. The retired four-star general brought the crowd to its feet when he said military action should be a last resort.
Lieberman, meanwhile, picked up the endorsement of The Hugo Daily News. The southeastern Oklahoma newspaper said the Connecticut senator gives the Democratic party its only viable presidential challenger.
Edwards campaigned in the much-needed South Carolina, where he told supporters he's a candidate to be reckoned with.
"What an incredible two weeks we've had," he said. "Now the job we'll have to do is to continue this momentum."
Edwards' campaign manager Nick Baldick told Fox News there is "no way" another Democrat is going to beat the Southern senator in his own backyard, "period."
The Edwards campaign is airing TV ads in South Carolina, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
Dean, who conducted interviews with Feb. 3 states via satellite from Vermont on Wednesday, argues that he has strong support and grassroots organization in states like Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, California, Illinois and New York.
Republicans had speculated that Dean would not only lose the nomination but he would lose just about every state.
Several GOP strategists and operatives hanging around Kerry headquarters Tuesday night acknowledged that they were looking forward to running against Dean and "kind of bummed, because it would have been fun running against him."
But Dean insisted he wouldn't go down without a fight.
"I'm looking forward to going on to the next thirteen states," Dean said. "If you can't take the heat, as Harry Truman said, don't stay in the kitchen."
Fox News' Carl Cameron, Andrew Hard, Catherine Loper, Ellen Uchimiya, Brian Wilson, Kelly Wright and The Associated Press contributed to this report.