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Inside Politics

Kerry wins Idaho, Utah

Hawaii also holding contest

Kerry pauses at a rally Tuesday in Highland Hills, Ohio.
Kerry pauses at a rally Tuesday in Highland Hills, Ohio.

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CNN's Judy Woodruff examines the political contests in Hawaii, Idaho and Utah.
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America Votes 2004
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(CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts won the Democratic presidential nominating contests in Idaho and Utah, two of three states holding contests Tuesday, according to returns.

Hawaii's caucuses began at 6:30 p.m. (11:30 p.m. ET). There were no results yet there. Utah's contest was a primary; Idaho's consisted of caucuses.

The contests -- already overshadowed by next week's much larger March 2 "Super Tuesday" lineup -- were further eclipsed by President Bush's proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution so that same-sex marriages would be effectively banned.

The Democratic candidates spent much of the day answering questions about the White House announcement.

A total of 61 delegates are at stake in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii, just 3 percent of the total needed to win the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in July. (CNN.com's interactive Primary Explainer)

In a sign of how little attention these contests are getting, not one of the major Democratic presidential hopefuls were in any of those three states Tuesday.

Going into Tuesday's caucuses and primary, Kerry has the most victories under his belt -- 16 of 18 contests.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has claimed second place in the Democratic race by virtue of his victory in South Carolina and his strong finish behind Kerry in Wisconsin and through his spirited campaigning.

Also in the Democratic race: civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Neither man, however, has won a single contest, and both trail in the polls.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader joined the presidential race Sunday, but he is running as an independent and is not on the Democratic ballot.(Full story)

There has been little in the way of pre-primary spin from any of the campaigns, suggesting no one expects Tuesday night's results to alter the political landscape significantly.

Instead, the campaigns -- particularly those of Kerry and Edwards -- have devoted their time and resources to several of the 10 states holding primaries or caucuses one week from today.

That "Super Tuesday" lineup has the potential to place Kerry even farther ahead of his rivals or give new momentum to Edwards' dogged effort to win the nomination. (CNN.com's interactive Election Calendar)

Kerry was in New York and Ohio on Tuesday, two of the Super Tuesday states. Edwards campaigned in Georgia, also on the March 2 lineup. He was also due to campaign in Texas, which holds its primary March 9.

Talking to reporters in Youngstown, Ohio, Kerry dismissed as almost "fantasy" Bush's speech Monday night in which the president lashed out at Democrats, saying there was a "walking contradiction" between Bush's deeds and words.

"Last night was almost a fantasy speech about a world that doesn't exist for most Americans," Kerry said.

"I believe we deserve a president who is going to fight to make the playing field fair for the workers of this country, fight for health care and fight to guarantee that we keep the promise to our children for education. That's what this race is about and that's what I'm in Ohio to talk about."

Bush never mentioned Kerry by name in his speech, but it was clear the president was treating the four-term senator from Massachusetts as if he would be the eventual Democratic nominee.

Volunteers count ballots at Utah Democratic Party headquarters in Salt Lake City.
Volunteers count ballots at Utah Democratic Party headquarters in Salt Lake City.

That approach caught the attention of Edwards. His campaign released a written statement declaring "not so fast," revising a line that Edwards used during a recent debate when Kerry spoke as if he was the nominee.

"George Bush doesn't get to pick our nominee, and he doesn't get to decide what this election is about," Edwards said. "This president is so bankrupt of ideas that he can't even wait until the Democrats pick a nominee before he starts drudging up the past and slinging mud."

Sharpton was in New York and spoke about the unrest in Haiti. He told reporters he was willing to go to the island nation to help mediate the conflict, citing his "long-standing relationship with the Haitian community" as a plus.

CNN.Com producer Sean Loughlin contributed to this report.


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