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Inside Politics

Kerry wins Wisconsin, Edwards surges

Super Tuesday contests loom

Kerry kisses his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry during an election night party in Middleton, Wisconsin.
Kerry kisses his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry during an election night party in Middleton, Wisconsin.

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CNN-USA has extensive live coverage all night of the impact of Howard Dean's withdrawal from the presidential race, John Kerry's win in Wisconsin and John Edwards' surprising second-place showing there. Follow developments as they happen with reports and analysis all evening.
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CNN's Bill Hemmer talks with John Edwards.
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Sen. John Kerry says Wisconsin voters have moved his campaign forward.
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CNN's Candy Crowley on Howard Dean's dilemma.
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America Votes 2004
Presidential primaries
Democratic candidates

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry beat back a strong challenge from Sen. John Edwards to win the Wisconsin presidential primary on Tuesday.

"My friends, tonight I say to all of America, get ready, a new day is on the way," Kerry, a four-term senator from Massachusetts, told supporters gathered in Middleton, Wisconsin.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting in Tuesday's primary, Kerry had 40 percent of the vote, followed by Edwards at 34 percent and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean at 18 percent. Rep. Dennis Kucinich trailed with 3 percent and civil rights activist Al Sharpton had 1 percent. (Audio Slide Show: Primary night in Wisconsin)

In winning 16 of 18 primary-season contests held so far, Kerry has secured slightly more than a quarter of the 2,161 delegates he needs to win his party's White House nomination. ('s interactive look at Primary Results to date)

Of Wisconsin's 72 delegates up for grabs Tuesday, Kerry secured at least 30, Edwards had at least 24 and 13 went to Dean. The rest were still to be decided. ('s interactive Delegate Scorecard)

Still, Edwards' strength could give him new momentum, with the "Super Tuesday" batch of contests just two weeks away, on March 2.

Edwards, a first-term senator from North Carolina, conceded that his closer-than-expected showing wasn't what he'd foreseen. He noted that polling put Kerry as much as 35 points ahead just two days ago. (Gallery: Wisconsin votes)

"I am surprised by the strength of the surge. I'm not surprised by the surge," Edwards told CNN's "Larry King Live." "We've surged in a lot of states at the end when people got a close look at me and my campaign." (Full story)

Kerry's campaign sought to downplay Edwards' upward mobility, arguing that a win is a win -- and that Kerry has won all but two contests so far in the primary season.

"The motto of the state of Wisconsin is, 'Forward.' And I want to thank the state of Wisconsin for moving this cause and this campaign forward tonight," Kerry said at his victory rally in Middleton.

Exit polls

Exit polling found that nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin voters made up their minds in the last week, and Edwards beat Kerry by 16 points among those voters. But among voters who made up their minds more than a week ago, Kerry led by more than 30 points.

Edwards also benefited from support from independent voters, who were allowed to cast a Democratic ballot Tuesday in Wisconsin. They broke for Edwards by a nearly 15-point margin.

The economy was the top issue for Wisconsin voters, the exit polls showed, and trade was an important issue in the race. (Full story)

"Today, the voters of Wisconsin sent a clear message. The message is this -- objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear," Edwards told jubilant supporters in Milwaukee. "They want a debate. They want this campaign to continue. They want someone who will stand up and fight for them."

Next week, voters will choose delegates at caucuses in Hawaii and Idaho and in Utah's primary. ('s interactive Election Calendar)

Those contests will be followed by "Super Tuesday," which features the largest single batch of primaries and caucuses on the Democratic calendar. A total of 1,151 delegates will be picked that day in 10 states, including such electoral prizes as California, New York, Ohio and Georgia.

CNN's John Mercurio, Kelly Wallace, Dan Lothian, Candy Crowley, Judy Woodruff, Wolf Blitzer, Bill Schneider, Jeff Greenfield, Carlos Watson, Justin Dial, Jamie McShane and Sasha Johnson contributed to this report.

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