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Analysis of the Wisconsin primary


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(CNN) -- CNN political analysts and contributors examine the campaigns of the Democratic presidential hopefuls and the potential impact of the Wisconsin primary.

 

"In the primaries until now, Democrats have not played up their issue differences. Instead they've competed with each other to take the title of Mr. Electable. That may be changing today in Wisconsin. We asked voters, 'Which is more important to you: Supporting a candidate who can beat President Bush or finding a candidate who agrees with you on the issues?' Kerry voters were divided. They tended to give priority to electability ... But John Edwards voters were different. More than two thirds of them said issues mattered more than electability.

"What's happening is Edwards has opened up an issues front on the jobs issue an issue Wisconsin voters care about because their state has lost some 75,000 jobs in the last three years. Edwards has a populist economic message. He's challenging Howard Dean and John Kerry for supporting NAFTA, the trade agreement that Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly believe is causing a loss of American jobs. And that populist economic message is bringing a surge of support for Edwards from voters who want to send a message, not just defeat President Bush."

-- Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst

 

"The big question is: What will the people who would give John Edwards money consider to be a decent showing, because at this point, John Edwards is practically broke. And to run in the Super Tuesday primaries here in New York and in California and other huge states Ohio you need lots and lots of money. So if the funders, if the people who would back Edwards, think that it is a close thing tonight, then he's still in it.

"But I got to say, at this point, I don't see any faction in this party that can't live with John Kerry. To knock off a front-runner like this, you have to have some reason to do it. I don't see any reasons out there."

-- Joe Klein, CNN's 'Paula Zahn Now' contributor and Time magazine columnist

 

"John Edwards' basic argument is 'I can win all of the votes John Kerry can, but I can win where he can't.' If you look at Super Tuesday, I think his argument will be this: 'Look, any Democrat is going to win New York and California, unless it's a blowout. Where we have to win this thing is in states like Ohio.' ...

'Georgia,' John Edwards will say, 'I can be competitive there.' So even though Edwards, let's say, goes on and loses most of Super Tuesday -- if he were to somehow prevail in Ohio, Georgia -- if he were to pick up delegates in rural parts of New York State, you could at least understand the argument.

"The problem is that's an argument of electability that you make to party leaders, who a generation ago would say, 'Yeah, we're going with you.' There are no party leaders anymore. It's all primary voters who pick delegates, and John Edwards has to make that argument and fast to the primary voters on Super Tuesday, and should he do well enough to stay in beyond -- very tough call for Edwards. As far as Dean goes, if he does very poorly tonight, having staked everything on Wisconsin, I don't see how he goes on."

-- Jeff Greenfield, CNN senior analyst

 

"I don't think [Dean] really cares about the pressure too much anymore. If you think, he's lost his campaign manager and he's lost his chief supporter in the labor movement. So I think he's kind of oblivious to that.

"He's making a point, and I think he feels like he's got something to say. My guess is he's indicated that he will sputter around for a couple more weeks out there."

-- James Carville, Democratic strategist and CNN's 'Crossfire' co-host

 

"John Kerry started out with a big lead for the same reason he's had it everywhere else: A lot of voters there think he's the best candidate against President Bush.

"What we've seen in other states where John Edwards has been able to concentrate his time and effort, is he's generally finished strong. Voters respond to him. He's been a little tougher in his message, going after Kerry, to some extent, saying that Kerry supported NAFTA. And he did not. ...

"I wouldn't be surprised Edwards does reasonably well. He got some big endorsements. His problem is it's taken that concentrated effort for him to cut into Kerry's lead. He now moves into a period where we're going to have 10 states voting in two weeks. And it's simply not going to be possible for him to spend the kind of time in all of them that he's been able to devote to Wisconsin."

-- Ron Brownstein, CNN political analyst and Los Angeles Times national political correspondent


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