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Inside Politics

Candidate Kerry faces new challenges

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau

Sen. John Kerry smiles at his supporters as the results of Tuesday's votes are counted.
Sen. John Kerry smiles at his supporters as the results of Tuesday's votes are counted.

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Watch CNN-USA now: Soledad O'Brien, Bill Hemmer and Jack Cafferty lead the "American Morning" team's coverage of President Bush's campaign efforts in the West and John Kerry's stumping ahead of Tuesday's primaries in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
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CNN's Jeff Greenfield on what may be John Edwards' last campaign stand.
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CNN's Bill Hemmer talks with John Kerry about Super Tuesday.
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CNN's Bob Franken on the Democrats' camps gearing up for Tuesday.
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Total delegates at stake: 1,151 of 2,162 needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination 

How many states have primary events: 10

States involved: Primaries are held in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont; a caucus is 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
John F. Kerry
John Edwards
Democratic candidates

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry faces three major challenges following anticipated victories on Super Tuesday, his top advisers told CNN.

They include setting up a process for choosing a running mate; settling on a Democratic convention team; and taking steps to assert control over the Democratic National Committee and lower the media profile of the group's chairman Terry McAuliffe.

Fund raising is also a priority -- but more manageable, campaign aides believe, because the senator did not accept public matching funds and therefore can continue to raise money right up until the Democratic convention in July.

It has been taboo within the Kerry campaign to talk publicly about searching for a running mate. The senator and his advisers consider it presumptuous to have such discussions until he has clinched the Democratic presidential nomination.

Also off-limits are public conversations about asserting control over the convention and the party.

But within the campaign, those challenges have been the subject of internal conversation.

With Tuesday's projected victories across the Super Tuesday states, the topics have risen to the forefront of Kerry's campaign.

Kerry himself, for example, has told senior aides he wants to move quickly to get the process for choosing a running mate in place -- in the event he decides there is political gain in announcing his choice before this summer's Democratic convention.

Senior Kerry advisers told CNN their goal is to have a formal process in place within a few weeks; one said perhaps even within a week or so. These advisers insist no decision has been made as to who would lead the search process, but two said a clear favorite has emerged.

Potential candidates for vice president have already begun jockeying for position.

Sen. John Edwards -- Kerry's closest contender in the primary and caucus contests -- is among the obvious favorites of some Democrats.

"How he handles himself in the next 24 hours" will go a long way in determining the level of support Edwards might have within the Kerry campaign, a Kerry confidante said Tuesday evening.

An Edwards campaign aide told CNN Tuesday night that Edwards will announce Wednesday in Raleigh, North Carolina, that he is dropping out of the race.

Others mentioned by senior Kerry advisers and other leading Democrats as vice-presidential prospects include Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri; Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack; Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana; and former Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

"But we are nowhere in terms of who," said a senior Kerry adviser. "We have a lot of work to do first."

Considering the Democratic Convention

Veteran Massachusetts political operative Jack Corrigan -- a former prosecutor and a major player in the 1988 Dukakis campaign -- is the Kerry campaign's choice to be its point man for the Boston convention, several campaign and Democratic operatives told CNN Tuesday.

"He is the campaign convention guy," a senior Democratic source said.

The nominee traditionally takes control of the convention from national party planners, and in this case it is viewed as perhaps the easiest challenge for the Kerry camp because the Democratic convention is in Boston and Corrigan is just one of an abundance of seasoned Democratic operatives in Massachusetts to draw on for help.

The biggest political challenge is considered to be planning a convention in Kerry's best interests while accommodating the interests of the state's senior senator, Ted Kennedy, and keeping peace with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Massachusetts unions.

In addition to Corrigan, the Boston-based Dewey Square Group is likely to be intimately involved in this effort.

Michael Whouley, with Dewey Square, is already a senior adviser to the Kerry campaign and his partners have considerable experience in Massachusetts and national Democratic politics.

Facing the Democratic Party

Kerry and several of his top advisers are said to be adamant that Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe take a much lower public profile if Kerry locks up the nomination.

One senior Kerry adviser said the senator and his top aides were furious when McAuliffe accused President Bush of being "AWOL" during his days in the Alabama National Guard.

"Let's just say that was a surprise we could have done without," a senior Kerry adviser said.

The senior adviser said it would be "very messy" to try to replace McAuliffe in the middle of the campaign. This and another senior Kerry campaign source also credited McAuliffe with early convention planning and fund raising.

"Our issue is the message and we need to control that," the second source said.

The debate within the Kerry campaign is whether to simply ask McAuliffe to take a lower media profile and have the campaign arrange surrogate appearances or whether to ask a senior Democrat to join the DNC leadership team as "General Chairman" or some title to that effect.

Three campaign aides said no decision had been made.

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