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Kerry Sweeps Virginia & Tennessee; Clark Quits Race

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Sen. John Kerry easily won primaries yesterday in Virginia and Tennessee giving him his first victories in the south. Sen. John Edwards vowed to continue his campaign after scoring second in both states. Wesley Clark’s aides said he will drop out of the race.

Sen. John Kerry strengthened his position as Democratic front-runner yesterday winning the Virginia and Tennessee primaries. Kerry has now won 12 out of 14 state Democratic contests and last night added the first southern states to his growing string of victories. He spoke to supporters last night in Fairfax, Virginia.

Kerry easily won Virginia with 52 percent of the vote. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina came a distant second with 27 percent. The rest of the candidates were well back with Wesley Clark winning 9 percent, Howard Dean seven, Al Sharpton 3 and Rep. Dennis Kucinich 1 percent.

In Tennessee, the race was only marginally closer. Kerry led with 41 percent of the vote, with Edwards second at 26 percent and Clark close behind with 23. Howard Dean won 4 percent, Sharpton 2 and Kucinich 1.

Wesley Clark decided early on Wednesday to withdraw from the race, according to his aides. Speaking to a crowd in Tennessee he said “We may have lost this battle but we are not going to lose the battle for America’s future.” He is expected to make a formal announcement later today.

Before the polls closed yesterday, Sen. John Edwards vowed to continue his candidacy regardless of the outcome. The Washington Post reports pressure is mounting within the party to shift the focus to President Bush and begin to unify Democrats to prepare for the general election.

Dean did not compete in either Virginia or Tennessee, instead choosing to concentrate on Wisconsin. He originally called Wisconsin a do-or-die primary but later said he will stay in the race regardless of what happens there. Civil rights activist Al Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich are also continuing to fight.

Kerry’s victories padded his delegate lead, with the Associated Press reporting after midnight that the front-runner had won 85 delegates to give him a total of 414 pledged delegates. Edwards is second, with a total of 139, followed by Dean with 86, and Clark with 68.

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