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Analysts: Edwards needs Super Tuesday miracle

Kerry, Bush and Edwards
Kerry, Bush and Edwards

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Stay with CNN-USA for ongoing reports and analysis on the impact of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucus. CNN's correspondents and analysts review the votes, weigh the consequences and chart what's next in the 2004 political season.
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CNN's Bill Hemmer talks with John Kerry about Super Tuesday.
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CNN's Kelly Wallace on the pressure facing John Edwards.
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CNN's Candy Crowley on John Kerry's focus on the fall election.
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Total delegates at stake: 1,151 of 2,162 needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination 

How many states have contests: 10

States involved: Primaries are held in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont; caucuses are held in Minnesota

Earliest poll closing: 7 p.m. ET -- Georgia, Vermont 

• Latest poll closing: 11 p.m. ET -- California 

Compiled by Robert Yoon and Mark Rodeffer
America Votes 2004
Presidential primaries
Super Tuesday
Democratic candidates

(CNN) -- Sen. John Edwards faces almost insurmountable odds in derailing Sen. John Kerry's push to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination unless he can pull out surprise wins in some Southern and Midwest races on Super Tuesday, analysts said.

Kerry, the front-runner who has captured 19 out of 21 contests, has turned his attention to President Bush in recent weeks on the campaign trail.

"He's been focusing entirely on Bush, trying to continue the argument that he can take the fight to Bush," said CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

"He's tough; he'll fight back. He's not Michael Dukakis. He won't just lie there and get beat up. ..."

"His whole argument is 'Vote for me, and this is how I'm going to do it. I'm going to beat Bush, and here's how.' That's his whole campaign."

Meanwhile, Edwards, a first-term senator from North Carolina, has turned to Georgia and Maryland, two states where his Southern roots could be a factor, as well as areas suffering job losses such as Ohio and upstate New York.

He is telling voters that new trade policies are needed -- a key issue that has helped energize his campaign.

"Edwards has had to target states that are economically distressed and areas like upstate New York that are more economically distressed than other places because that's where his message on trade is likely to get the best reception," Schneider said.

"The problem is it's not very powerful in California or downstate New York, where most of the voters are."

Kerry has had solid leads in recent polls in all the states holding races on Super Tuesday.

California and New York are the major prizes, with 370 and 236 delegates up for grabs, respectively. The other states having primaries include Ohio, with 140 delegates; Massachusetts, with 93; Georgia, with 86; Maryland, with 69; Connecticut, with 49; Rhode Island, with 21; and Vermont, with 15. With its 72 delegates, Minnesota is the lone state Tuesday to hold caucuses. (Full story)

At stake Tuesday are 1,151 delegates of the 2,162 needed to win the nomination. Kerry has won 754, while Edwards has 220.

In Georgia, turnout among independent voters and African-Americans could also be key, said CNN political analyst Carlos Watson.

"If independent turnout is high, it's probably good news for Edwards," Watson said. "If the African-American turnout is high, it's probably good news for Kerry."

In Maryland, however, Edwards' strongest support appears to be among African-American voters, he noted.

"You have to look at African-American turnout, particularly in Prince George's County," Watson said. "If that turns out his way, that can be helpful."

Minnesota could be a wild card after organizers for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean decided to work for Edwards there when their candidate suspended his campaign.

"It's a caucus with a lot of Dean voters," Schneider said. "You could have an Edwards victory in Minnesota."

But Edwards, who has carried only his native South Carolina in the primaries, faces a difficult task in trying to stop Kerry's momentum, CNN political analyst Donna Brazile said.

"What I'm looking for tonight is the results here in Georgia," Brazile said. "Can Edwards have a comeback here? Can he win the Minnesota caucuses? Can he keep it close in New York and Ohio? And barring a miracle, I mean a real miracle, John Kerry will be within a stone's throw of winning the nomination."

The two other Democratic candidates, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and the Rev. Al Sharpton, a New York civil rights activist, could also be a factor, potentially drawing votes away from Kerry in their home states, the analysts said.

"Really, those are the only hopes that Edwards has of pulling anything out is if those two guys pull significant votes away from Kerry," Watson said. "I don't expect that to happen, but those are the 'Hail Marys.' "

The analysts said they also will be looking for any signs of anti-Kerry sentiment in Tuesday's returns.

"Obviously, that's what Edwards has to exploit," Schneider said, "and so far, I haven't seen any evidence at all in the primaries that there is a constituency among Democrats who say, 'We're not happy with Kerry. We don't think he's electable. We don't think he can win. We're not ready to go with him.' "

Although he raised attacks against Kerry's positions on trade issues in a debate Sunday, Edwards decided early in the campaign not to go negative, a move that has had "severe limitations," Schneider said.

"He has to go negative on Kerry because Democrats don't see any reason not to vote for Kerry. They're perfectly happy with him," Schneider said. "The only way Edwards can possibly win is to say to Democrats, 'Think again, you're not happy with him; you should be unhappy with him. He's a catastrophe waiting to happen.'

"If he can't say that, then Democrats are going to say, "We like Kerry, and we like you, too, and you should be on the ticket -- but as No. 2."

The lack of a strong showing Tuesday will only increase the pressure on Edwards to drop out of the race.

President Bush's re-election campaign plans to begin TV advertising Thursday, and some Democratic leaders have said it would be best for the party to get behind a single candidate at that point.

But Edwards insists he will carry on to next week, when voters go to the polls in Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana -- all part of a region he calls his "back yard."

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