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Inside Politics

Kerry wins in South, Clark to quit

Clark to withdraw Wednesday

Kerry celebrates with supporters after convincing wins in Virginia and Tennessee.
Kerry celebrates with supporters after convincing wins in Virginia and Tennessee.

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CNN's Judy Woodruff on Sen. John Kerry's wins in Tennessee and Virginia.
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Retired Gen. Wesley Clark thanks his supporters for their efforts.
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John Kerry enjoys his wins in Virginia and Tennessee.
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Howard Dean says his supporters want fundamental change.
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America Votes 2004
Democratic candidates
Presidential primaries

FAIRFAX, Virginia (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry took two victories in southern primaries Tuesday which drove one of his rivals with roots in the South out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who finished third in both Tennessee and Virginia, will announce his withdrawal Wednesday afternoon in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas.

"Gen. Clark has decided to leave the race," said Clark spokesman Matt Bennett. "I think probably the biggest reason is the tremendous momentum that Sen. Kerry built coming out of the Iowa and New Hampshire races."

"The mountain got too steep to climb."

Kerry's twin victories in Tennessee or Virginia indicates his message appeals to Southern voters.

"Once again, the message rings out loud and clear: Americans are voting for change East and West, North and now in the South," Kerry told a rapturous victory rally in Fairfax, Virginia.

"[As] this campaign moves forward we will fight for every vote. We may be a little bit older, we may be a little bit grayer but we still know how to fight for our country." (Transcript)

In Virginia, Kerry won with 52 percent of the vote. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina got 27 percent, and Clark was a distant third with 9 percent.

In Tennessee, with 98 percent of the precincts reporting, Kerry was winning with 41 percent of the vote, followed by Edwards with 26 percent and Clark with 23 percent. (Analysis of results)

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio are trailing far behind in single digits in both states.

Nearly 90 percent of exit poll respondents in Virginia said they thought Kerry could beat Bush.

Among the nearly four in 10 respondents in both states who thought "electability" was more important than a candidate's stance on particular issues, Kerry was the choice by a greater than 3-2 margin. (Full story)

Kerry has now won 12 Democratic nomination contests and lost just two. With his aura of inevitability rising, the senator has begun focusing his campaign against the Bush administration, especially on economic themes, a top issue with many Democratic voters.

"Today, in a rare moment of truth-telling, they actually told us what they were doing. They said that shipping jobs, American jobs overseas, is good for America," he told supporters in Virginia. "Let them tell that to a 45-year-old worker with three kids who doesn't have a job, who's seeing the factory lost, who's seeing their job gone and has nowhere to turn."

Exit polls also showed Kerry's appeal with key demographic groups, including African-Americans, veterans and seniors.

More than two-thirds of Virginia's black respondents and nearly two-thirds of respondents 65 and older said they voted for him.

Kerry also ran well among respondents in Virginia who said they were veterans, taking about half.

Up for grabs Tuesday were 82 delegates in Virginia and 69 in Tennessee. To win the nomination, a candidate needs 2,161 delegates. (Delegate scorecard)

Kerry is leading with 510, Dean has 182, Edwards has 163, Clark has 98, Sharpton has 12 and Kucinich has two. (Full story)

Edwards 'going into March'

While thanking his supporters in Tennessee late Tuesday Clark never mentioned himself or his next campaign move. Instead, he praised the Democratic Party and talked of the need to defeat Bush.

But Edwards, who finished a distant second to Kerry, vowed, "This race is going into March."

"We did what we needed to do tonight," he said. "It looks like it's narrowed itself down to a two-person race now, and we're excited about our prospects," he said.

"We're going to have a campaign and an election, not a coronation," the North Carolina senator told supporters in Milwaukee. (Full story)

Tuesday's results were not a surprise to analysts, who had predicted a Kerry win.

The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed Kerry is now the choice of a majority of Democratic voters nationally, well ahead of Edwards, Clark and Dean. The poll showed he is also in a virtual dead heat with Bush in a head-to-head matchup. (Full story)

A month ago, Kerry was supported by just 9 percent. The latest poll marks the first time any of the Democratic hopefuls has gone above 50 percent.

The Kerry bandwagon continued to grow Tuesday, as he received the endorsements of three members of Congress from Wisconsin -- Sen. Herb Kohl and Reps. David Obey and Ron Kind.

He also came in first place in caucuses of Democrats living abroad, held from Friday through Monday in 19 countries. Kerry captured 55 percent of the votes and carried 17 countries. Dean came in second at 19 percent, carrying the most Democrats in Japan and Sweden.

Dean says he won't quit

Dean didn't put up a fight for either Virginia or Tennessee. He is planning to make a stand next Tuesday in Wisconsin, although he has backed away from earlier comments that the Badger State was a must-win for him.

Rallying the faithful in Milwaukee Tuesday evening, Dean criticized his rivals for voting for the war in Iraq and President Bush's education reform program, which he said made him a better choice to lead the fight against the GOP president in the fall.

"My question to Wisconsin is, 'Who do you want to stand with you in the foxhole, the guy who'll stand up when it's right or the guy who just stands up when it's popular?'" (Full story)

The next large contest is "Super Tuesday," when 11 states hold contests March 2. (Interactive election calendar)

CNN correspondents Kelly Wallace, Candy Crowley, Joe Johns and Dan Lothian and producers Justin Dial, Mike Roselli, Fran Fifis, Laura Bernardini and Sasha Johnson all contributed to this report.

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