WASHINGTON – After big wins in five contests across the country, John Kerry's (search) campaign buoyantly looked to the future Tuesday night, while John Edwards (search) -- scoring a victory in South Carolina and battling late into the night for a win in Oklahoma -- characterized the Democratic presidential contest as a two-man race.
"For the second time in a few days a New England Patriot has won on the road," Kerry told cheering supporters, referring to Sunday's Super Bowl win by New England. "Now we carry this campaign and the cause of a stronger, fairer, more prosperous America to all parts of this country. We will take nothing for granted, we will compete everywhere."
Sounding like a general election contestant, Kerry, who had huge margins of victory in Missouri and Delaware and won comfortably in Arizona, New Mexico and North Dakota, said his wins show that the tax cuts and health care packages won by President Bush are unpopular. He criticized him for failing to support veterans and create jobs.
"It's a huge night. I'm stunned by it. It shows strength across the country and across demographics. It's a statement by Democrats across the country that I am the candidate who can take on George Bush and beat him," Kerry said earlier in the evening.
But Edwards, who stole some of Kerry's thunder by winning South Carolina with a double-digit lead over him, said he is not ready to concede the nomination yet.
"I think a fair assessment of this is that both of us have gained strength," said Edwards, who has managed to maintain cordial relations with Kerry. "I think tonight I proved that I can win the White House and change the country in a way that strengthens the millions of middle-class families that Bush has forgotten, and lift up the 35 million Americans who live in poverty."
Kerry campaigned in South Carolina, but he did not give it nearly as much priority as Edwards, who called it a must-win state. The Kerry campaign stressed that Edwards was a favorite son candidate, having been born in the Palmetto State, where he also outspent Kerry by four to one.
"I compliment John Edwards but I think you have to run a national campaign, and I think that's the strength we have shown tonight," Kerry said. "You can't cherry-pick the presidency."
In the seven states holding contests Tuesday, Kerry was the only candidate to stump and advertise in each, a strategy that appeared to be paying off according to several political analysts.
"If you step back, you have to say John Kerry is showing impressive national strength. Pretty good night for Edwards, but Kerry is doing everything he needs to do," said Weekly Standard editor William Kristol.
Despite his poor showing across the board, Howard Dean (search) refused to give up on a candidacy that has lost most of its momentum.
"We're going to have a tough night tonight, but here's why we're going to keep going and going and going and going and going just like the Energizer bunny. We're going to pick up some delegates tonight, and this is all about who gets the most delegates in Boston in July, and it's going to be us," said the former governor of Vermont, speaking to a crowd in Tacoma, Wash., that was smaller than expected and less enthusiastic than pass Dean crowds.
Political experts were less optimistic about Dean's chances.
"Howard Dean is done," said Steve Murphy, who ran Rep. Dick Gephardt's campaign.
Wesley Clark (search), whose campaign declared victory in Oklahoma, where the race was too close to call at 12 a.m. EST, expressed confidence about the future of his candidacy.
As an old soldier from Arkansas, I just couldn’t be prouder of your support in this first election that I've ever won. Thank you, thank you for your support, thank you for standing by me we came to Oklahoma and we won," Clark said.
"America wants a higher standard of leadership in Washington ... George W. Bush has had three years to move our country forward, he has moved it in the wrong direction," Clark said.
Despite his intense focus on Delaware, Joe Lieberman (search) managed just a distant second-place finish, and decided not to continue a campaign that never caught fire.
"I have decided tonight to end my quest for the presidency of the United States of America. Am I disappointed? Naturally. But am I proud of what I stood for in this campaign? You betcha," Lieberman told supporters in Arlington, Va.
Fox News' Molly Henneberg, Major Garrett and Carl Cameron and the Associated Press contributed to this report.