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Minnesotans Caucus, Edwards Drops Out

Minnesota, briefly regarded as a state where John Edwards (search) had a chance to slow John Kerry's (searchdrive in the Democratic presidential contest, wound up on the sidelines on Super Tuesday (search) as East Coast results pushed the nomination to Kerry.

Kerry won big in Ohio, Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Just as Minnesota's caucuses were beginning, The Associated Press reported that Edwards would quit the race on Wednesday.

Minnesota was one of the few Super Tuesday states thought to be competitive. State Democrats expected to report caucus results later in the evening.

Edwards, a North Carolina senator, had hoped to cash in on the help of leading supporters of former candidate Howard Dean, who had a strong Minnesota following. Kerry, a Massachusetts senator who entered Tuesday with wins in 18 of 20 states, was the choice of labor unions, which have come through for candidates before on caucus night.

Joe Henderson, 37, had just cast his vote for Edwards at a St. Paul high school when he heard his candidate was giving up.

"It's discouraging," Henderson said. "But I'll pick myself up and return to being invigorated about the prospect of seeing a Democrat in the White House. My birthday is on Inauguration Day so I'm hoping to have a good one."

Dale Tremain, 56, voted for Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich (search) because of his strong opposition to the war in Iraq. Still, Tremain made clear he wasn't wedded to his caucus night choice.

In all the elections he's participated in, Tremain said, "this is the first time that I didn't feel like I was choosing the lesser of evils."

Kerry's Minnesota backers cheered the Edwards development but in a restrained fashion.

"The coast isn't clear," said Ken Martin, Kerry's Minnesota campaign director. "The next seven months is going to be a tough battle with George Bush."

Both major candidates campaigned in St. Paul -- Kerry once and Edwards twice. Only Kucinich ventured outside of the Twin Cities (search).

Party officials printed 20,000 ballots for the more than 4,000 precinct caucus sites around the state. That would be nearly twice the turnout of 2000.

Super Tuesday offered 1,151 pledged national convention delegates, more than half the number needed for the Democratic nomination; Minnesota's share was 72, which were to be allocated proportionally based on a candidate's showing in the binding preference ballot.

Minnesota's other major political parties also were holding caucuses. President Bush was unopposed in the Republican caucuses. The Green Party (search) was choosing among several little known-candidates seeking that nomination. The Independence Party (searchballot listed candidates from the three other parties and allowed members to rank them from one to 10.