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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Votes 2004

Aired February 17, 2004 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Battleground Wisconsin.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I look forward to this fight.

ANNOUNCER: Another primary night in the campaign for the White House.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our work is not done. We still have enormous work to do.

ANNOUNCER: Are Badger State voters helping seal the Democratic contest, or are they shaking it up?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This isn't done yet.

ANNOUNCER: Find out how the story unfolds, right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, here's Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, John Kerry is the winner in Wisconsin. And John Edwards' close second-place finish is the surprise.

CNN projects a Kerry victory, his 16th in this Democratic presidential primary season. But it was not the cakewalk many expected, because of a late surge by John Edwards.

Let's check the latest returns that we're getting in right now. With 80 percent of the vote now in, 39 percent going to John Kerry, 35 percent to John Edwards. A distant third, with only 18 percent, going to Howard Dean.

Our correspondents have the candidates covered across Wisconsin tonight. Let's begin with tonight's winner and Kelly Wallace. She's covering the John Kerry campaign in Middleton, Wisconsin - Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Kerry team says a win is a win no matter how close. And advisers are saying look at the numbers. John Kerry now has a record of 16 wins and two losses; John Edwards a record of one win and 17 losses.

That said, though, this race a whole lot tighter than anyone expected, polls going into this contest showing John Kerry with a lead of nearly 40 points.

A short time ago, in fact, John Kerry was asked by our own Justin Dial if he were surprised at how tight this race turned out to be. He said, No. He said a lot of Republicans and independents turned out, and he said we won hugely among Democrats.

Then John Kerry came here to talk to his supporters. It was a little more of a low-key speech by John Kerry than we have seen in recent days. But once again, as he has been doing over the past several days, he focused exclusively on President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: Friends, tonight I say to all of America, Get ready. A new day is on the way. Thank you and God bless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: OK, that sound byte not exactly the one where he was talking about President Bush and President Bush's economic policies. Aides say that they are making no change of plans about after tonight as they move on ahead.

Tomorrow, John Kerry heading to Ohio and will focus on the March 2 states. But all this being said, Wolf, no doubt these advisers will look a bit at what happened here, look at the issues, look to see how John Edwards had such a surge, to see if they make any changes down the road - Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelly Wallace covering the Kerry campaign. Thanks, Kelly, very much.

Dan Lothian's covering John Edwards' campaign. Dan is joining us now live.

Dan, he didn't win, but he came in a close second.

WALLACE: It is safe to say....

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, that's right. Senator Edwards had been down in the polls, you might remember, but he had been talking about momentum building in his campaign over the couple of days. Tonight, a much better than expected finished.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

] EDWARDS: Today, the voters of Wisconsin sent a clear message. The message was this: Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: An aide with the Edwards campaign saying that he was able to speak the language that the voters understood - Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian. We'll get back to you. Thanks very much. Candy Crowley is covering Howard Dean's campaign. She's in Madison, Wisconsin. A disappointing night for Howard Dean, Candy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Howard Dean left Wisconsin, heading home to Burlington to decide over the next couple of days what he will do next. But everything in this room tonight said it will not be a campaign.

When Dean spoke to this crowd, he spoke often in the past tense, telling union workers who supported him, "You supported us until the very end."

He talked about, "We're not done yet." But, in fact, when he went on, it was about issues, special-interest money, health care for all. It was not, in fact, about the Dean campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: We are not done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: At this point, Dean is getting a lot of private advice from advisers and friends about he - what he should do in the future. They are talking about things like setting up an Internet funding service, which he has been very able to do in raising funds for his own campaign to help congressional members, Democrats, get elected to office. They are talking about perhaps supporting John Edwards.

In the end, it will, of course, be Dean's choice. But as he left here tonight, he said to this audience, "Never give up. We're not done yet."

But what is clear is that the Dean campaign for the president is done. What he will do next is what he goes back to Burlington to figure out.

Candy Crowley, CNN, with the Dean campaign in Madison, Wisconsin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Candy.

My colleagues, INSIDE POLITICS' Judy Woodruff, CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield. They're joining us now live. Judy's here in Washington; Jeff is joining us from our Los Angles bureau.

Judy, let's begin with you. John Edwards clearly made it close, but close is apparently not good enough.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: No, it's not. Wolf, there really are two stories tonight, and we have to keep our eye on that.

Number one, John Kerry has pulled off another win. This makes it 16 out of 18. He is racking up delegates. He's going to have more than 600 by the end of tonight. No matter how close John Edwards came, John Kerry still is the man who is odds-on favorite to win this nomination.

But the second story tonight is clearly John Edwards. He took his message of jobs and trade. It paid off in Wisconsin. You know, he said in that debate two nights ago, "Not so fast, John Kerry." And he has made good on that promise.

You know, Wolf, what did that up to? It makes the race more interesting. But still, the nomination is a long climb for John Edwards.

BLITZER: It does, Jeff Greenfield, give us something to talk about over the next two weeks as we get ready for Super Tuesday. Ten contests on March 2 - Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: What makes this so fascinating to me is that John Edwards is making an argument now about electability. We've heard over and over again these last weeks that that's why Democrats have been picking John Kerry.

What John Edwards is saying to the party is, Look, when you go to the independents here in Wisconsin, when you go to independents in other states, when you see less traditional Democrats, I do better. And his argument, fundamentally, is going to be, I can get all the votes John Kerry can get, but I can also get votes he can't. And watch me on Super Tuesday in places like Ohio and Georgia. Clearly, less Democratic states than New York and California.

I just don't - I can't think of a case where that argument has worked with primary voters. But look, if there's one thing we've seen, is that John Edwards is a compelling advocate. That's why he was such a great trial lawyer.

The arithmetic is against him. The primary calendar is against him; fewer open primaries. But I think Judy's exactly right. We cant put pay (ph) to this race yet and, for those of us that like to see a political contest, we've got at least two more weeks of one.

BLITZER: We certainly do.

Carlos Watson is also one of our political contributors. He's joining us now live from Mountain View, California.

There is drama. There's a potential for some serious drama in the next couple weeks. But how realistic is that potential, Carlos?

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's unlikely that the drama, as Jeff said, will turn into Edwards winning.

But here's what I think is interesting. As you move to New York and California, I think you'll see a whole new set of issues discussed. Last year, we saw Iraq discussed in a significant way. Later, it was electability. We just started talking about jobs and trade. And now, notice in California and New York, you'll start to hear a lot about education, you'll hear a lot about the environment, and significantly, with what's going on in San Francisco, you'll start to hear a discussion about gay rights.

A very different set of conversations, Wolf. Very different agenda than what we've seen so far.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Carlos.

Also joining us, monitoring the story behind the numbers tonight, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

Bill, the exit polls - we learned a great deal about what were on - what was on the mind of voters out in Wisconsin.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right.

This is a Democratic primary. So what - 60 percent of the voters are Democrats. And how did the Democrats - these are people who call themselves Democrats - vote? They voted for John Kerry. That was the key to his victory, his fellow Democrats. He led John Edwards among Democrats by 15 points, 47 to 32.

However, there were a lot of voters in Wisconsin - about 30 percent of them - who call themselves independents. How did they get into the Wisconsin Democratic primary? Wisconsin lets them in. It says, independents, anybody can vote in their primary. They're less interested in beating Bush, more interested in sending a message. And as you can see there, independent voters voted 40 to 28 for John Edwards. And that was the key to Edwards' surprisingly strong finish, and to his argument that he can - he can reach beyond the Democratic base to those crucial independent voters who are the swing voters in the general election.

Does this mean an anti-Kerry backlash is materialzing in the Democratic Party? Here's the answer - what we see here is that more than two-thirds of the John Kerry voters say that they would be satisfied if - I'm sorry, John Edwards voters, say they would be satisfied if John Kerry wins the nomination. They were not voting for Edwards to stop Kerry. They were voting to send a message, and the message was clearly about jobs and trade. But they would be entirely satisfied - two-thirds of them say that - if Kerry is the nominee.

BLITZER: I got the sense, Judy, that - that there are at least - talking to a lot of Democrats - that there's a sense, you know, this is good for the Democratic Party. Give another two weeks to the process. Let John Kerry, in effect, be vetted a little bit more to make sure there are no more surprises potentially out there.

WOODRUFF: Exactly. You know, we've saying - some of us, we've been saying, This is supposed to be the front-loaded primary season, as Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the party, wanted. It certainly has been front-loaded.

But this keeps the contest open. Sure, John Kerry is still favored to be the nominee. But he can look forward to 10 contests on the night of Super Tuesday, two weeks from tonight. We're going to be following states all across the country, as Jeff and Bill have pointed out, and Carlos, from New York to California to Georgia to Ohio and a number of other states all around the country. And you're going to see John Edwards competing not everywhere, but in a number of those states.

And, in fact, Wolf, John Kerry is going to go after John Edwards, because he's going to say he's cherry-picking. He' s just picking his spots, whereas John Kerry has to run in all of these states.

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, you notice when John Edwards is criticizing John Kerry he brings up the issue of NAFTA and trade, pointing out that this is a serious matter for so many Americans who've lost jobs.

That issue resonated, clearly, in Wisconsin. But does it have legs in these other states?

GREENFIELD: It has legs in Ohio. Four percent of the manufacturing jobs have gone in the last four years. It has legs in parts of Georgia.

Remember, he said he was going to go to Upstate New York. That's a place that has been hammered economically for decades.

California, and the rest of New York, look to me to be much more sympathetic to free trade. And the interesting thing to me, that's the only issue that John Edwards says he has differences with. I'm sure he'll have others, but from what we've heard so far, trade is the one issue other than electability, other than the fact that he's saying, I can get independents, more conservative-minded Democrats, more rural Democrats than you can, John Kerry.

The only substance I've heard so far is on trade. Whether he opens up differences in the next couple weeks is one of the most intriguing questions we're going to look at in the days ahead.

BLITZER: Let's bring back Bill Schneider. Briefly, what do you think about that?

SCHNEIDER: I think that John Kerry - Edwards is showing striking success talking about jobs and trade, economic issues.

And look what happened: Howard Dean tried to open up a debate about the Iraq war. He attacked all of the other candidates for voting in favor of going to war in Iraq, and he couldn't get that debate started within the Democratic Party. So Dean tried to open up a debate on issues on Iraq. Democrats weren't interested in debating that. They were interested in debating jobs. And that's what they care.

BLITZER: It's - in the end, it was jobs.

All right. Stand by, everyone. We have a lot more to talk about.

Win or lose tonight, what do Democrats have to look forward to? Up next, the road ahead. And what the front-runner's need to do next to stay in the game.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: An important night in presidential politics. CNN projecting Senator John Kerry will win the Wisconsin primary. But Senator John Edwards showing a strong second-place finish.

Take a look at these numbers now. With 84 percent of the vote now officially in, 39 percent for John Kerry - the winner; 35 percent for John Edwards. A distant third, with only 18 percent of the vote, the former Vermont governor, Howard Dean. That's what's happening right now.

Here's a quick look at what's ahead in this race.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): John Kerry may have won 15 of 17 contests, but he remains far short of the 2,161 delegates needed to secure the nomination.

The only way to win them is to keep going. Next week, on February 24, Hawaii and Idaho hold caucuses and Utah has a primary. Sixty-one delegates are at stake.

Those states could get lose in the shuffle, though, because a week later - that's two weeks from today - it's Super Tuesday. Ten states hold contests on March 2, including some real heavyweights: California, New York and Ohio offer the most delegates. But don't forget about Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont. In all, 1,151 delegates are up for grabs.

But even wins on Super Tuesday are unlikely to put John Kerry over the top. March 9 could do it with primaries in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Those states offer 465 more delegates.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: CNNer - CNN "CROSSFIRE" co-hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson are also watching tonight's - I guess we could say surprising results. They're joining us now live from Nashville, Tennessee.

Paul, how surprised were you?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN "CROSSFIRE" CO-HOST: Oh, well quite surprised. John Kerry had led in all the early polling leading up to Wisconsin. It looked like the thing was over. It's a pretty close finish. Now, I'll say - we'll see where it finally settles in, but last I saw, Kerry was leading by about 4 percent.

But still, a win is a win. I talked to a senior aide to Senator Kerry, and I suspect they are a little stunned. But what he finally said to me is, Hey, you can't win by losing. And that was their message to John Edwards. It's like, Nice try, young man, but you didn't and you're going to have to beat somewhere. And Edwards still hasn't done that lately.

BLITZER: Paul, did you get a sense that Kerry sort of was taking Wisconsin for granted and didn't devote enough of his energy, his resources, his money to Wisconsin to have a more lop-sided victory?

BEGALA: I don't really think that was the case, Wolf. I think he didn't full appreciate perhaps how many independents and even Republicans might vote. That's where Edwards was really strong. That's, as Jeff pointed out earlier, an important electability message for the general election. But for the primary, Democrats dominate and Democrats are going to determine this. I think that's probably the thing that changed on the terrain.

The Kerry campaign - I've been surprised at how earnest they've been. Even in private conversations, they do not take anything for granted. They're not as arrogant and cocky as, say, maybe I was when I was working for Bill Clinton and we were riding high.

So I don't fault him for that at all. They're not a cocky group.

BLITZER: Tucker, what did you learn from this close, one-two finish tonight between John Kerry and John Edwards?

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN "CROSSFIRE" CO-HOST: Well, we learned that the central talking point of the Edwards campaign, which is that he finishes strong and that momentum is on his side and has been in most of these contests, is true. It's absolutely right.

And it's interesting, when you look at the exit polling - not just in Wisconsin, but in all the states up to now - it's interesting to see why people say they voted for the candidate they voted for. Almost across the board - I mean, Kerry's support among Democrats is wide, very wide. Not clear how deep it is, though. People who vote for John Kerry say they vote for him, by and large, because he can win. You know, that works now. But that's not evidence of deep or committed or particularly passionate support.

John Edwards, on the other hand, turns out - won a lot of voters, very much at the last minute. Not, obviously, because they thought he was going to win. He's not the front-runner. But because there's something about John Edwards they liked, and that seems to suggest long-term toughness and strength in his campaign that maybe John Kerry doesn't have.

All of this, of course, changes week to week. But I think it's pretty good news for Edwards.

BLITZER: Let's talk strategy a minute, Paul, and I'll read to you an excerpt from the endorsement the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gave John Edwards only yesterday.

Among other things they wrote this: "If Democrats are serious about winning in November, they have two choices at this point. John Kerry would make a strong run at President Bush and might defeat him. But we think John Edwards, with his combination of message and method, may have the stronger legs in the long-distance race." What about that?

BEGALA: Well, that argument goes right to heart of what Democrats want to hear. I think that's why Kerry has done so well in the past, is that people saw him as the guy who could beat Bush. Edwards now can lay claim to that.

This is enormously risky now for John Kerry. You -- the front- runner wants the last man standing to be to the left of him. You know, when I worked for Clinton, he was blessed. The last guy standing against him was Jerry Brown, who has many great attributes, but he's very much to the left of where Clinton was. It allowed Bill Clinton to become the nominee and remain a centrist.

If I were working for John Kerry, I'd a much rather have a one- on-one race with Howard Dean, who appears to have just collapsed, than with John Edwards, who, I think, most people will view him as being more moderate than Kerry. And certainly that's what voters thought today, because independents and Republicans supported him more. So this is really a perilous moment for the Kerry campaign. They're going to have to figure out how to deal with pretty much a one-on-one race against an opponent who many voters see as more moderate than them. They need to find a way to deal with that. It's going to be interesting to watch.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, guys.

I want to bring back Dan Lothian, our correspondent. He's covering the John Edwards campaign in Milwaukee.

Dan, what are you learning now?

LOTHIAN: Well, certainly that endorsement is one of the issues that will be brought up time and time again, although yesterday the campaign was saying, we don't really know the full extent of what an endorsement can mean. But this, obviously, the biggest paper in Wisconsin. That could have played a role here.

The campaign also saying that he was able to seize the message that was important to the people here, that message of the economy and against NAFTA. In fact, earlier tonight, someone here in the crowd walked to us while we were talking to one of the top aides, and said, Listen, it was all about NAFTA. When he started talking out against NAFTA, that is when we started paying attention.

Now, of course, this is the field that Senator Edwards has always wanted. He believes he can be competitive in this kind of race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: I've been looking forward to the time when this is a two-person race and people will focus on Senator Kerry and myself. It now appears that we're very close to that place and maybe already there. And so this is the moment I've been looking for.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LOTHIAN: Of course, they have their sites now on Super Tuesday, but will be focusing on three particular states - Ohio, Georgia and also New York. These are states that have lost a lot of manufacturing jobs and that is where aides believe that his message will resonate with the voters. They say he speaks the language that the voters understand - Wolf.

BLITZER: Super Tuesday should be super, two weeks from today. Dan, thank you very much.

Tucker Carlson, Kerry-Edwards, Edwards-Kerry, we're hearing those two names a lot tonight. When Republicans hear those two names, they potentially could think of some sort of Democratic ticker in November,

CARLSON: Yes, they could. I mean, that's the speculation.

It's kind of hard to see what advantage Kerry has in choosing the nominee early. There doesn't seem to me a compelling reason to choose him before the traditional time, right before the convention. It just gives reporters more time to dig in to the guy he chose.

I do think you can't overestimate the kind of media wish fulfillment going on here. I mean, nobody - me included - nobody I know in the press wants this race to end right now. And so I think in a lot of ways, Edwards is getting a pass.

I talked to some friends of mine who are covering him, and they make the point that - I've heard a couple pretty smart people make, which is - Edwards may not maybe wear as well up close as - as he does from afar. Everyone sort of like John Edwards. The conventional wisdom is he's the best candidate in here, best speech.

The guys I know who are covering, you know, like him. He's a decent guy. But, you know, maybe grows a little older after - after a while. So I think - in other words, it's a long way of saying, I think once Edwards gets maybe the scrutiny John Kerry has had, or Howard Dean has had, he won't seem perhaps quite as appealing as he does now, when he's the only alternative to a race sewn up really early.

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, you told us all a week ago, two weeks ago, for some time now, you told us, don't be surprised by a surprise in Wisconsin. You lived there for four years. You graduated from the University of Wisconsin. You know, obviously, what you were talking about. A lot of us are surprised at how close this race turned out to be.

GREENFIELD: Well, I'd like to claim credit for that, but you remember two weeks ago, we were all talking about whether Howard Dean could pull it off.

The only thing I do know is about Wisconsin is it is a - a state that is - people - people said all this week that is becoming more like the rest of the country. I still think it has some special qualities, not the least of which is a love of populism. It is more of an outside, anti-establishment state in terms of its votes than others. But I think the question we're now turning to is what next in this interest in John Edwards' impressive performance? We shouldn't look overlook the fact that one of the things that propelled John Kerry to prominence was the conviction among many Democrats that they had to have somebody who could stand with the president on national security issues. The question is, does John Edwards have that kind of credential, apart from his very impressive gift at rhetoric and communication and his story as a son of a millworker? Are Democratic prepared to put that aside because they now see in this fresh face, the possibility of a new, attractive kind of candidate? I wonder.

BLITZER: Judy, Howard Dean. He's got to be doing some real soul searching right now, asking himself what he must do next. Tonight, he gave his speech, saying he's moving forward. But I know you're speaking with a lot of Democrats, a lot of people close to him. What are you hearing?

WOODRUFF: I'm hearing that he should get out. I mean, I don't hear anybody saying he should stay in. Now, maybe I'm talking to a select group of people, but I'd like to think I'm talking to a pretty broad cross-section of the party. People look at Howard Dean and they say, 0 for 18.

And this is somebody whose star shot way up, but it fell down to Earth. I mean, there is nothing he has to show so far other than, you know, a great effort in this - in this contest.

Now, Howard Dean has his own decision to make and nobody's going to push him, I'm sure. But, you know, his campaign is going to go back to Vermont, and they're going to tell reporters, I think, on Thursday, what to expect next.

BLITZER: Carlos Watson, is there any justification, any rationale that Howard Dean presumably could put forward in the next day or two and say, You know what? I'm continuing on through Super Tuesday.

WATSON: Nothing other than that I want to stay there. In fact, in addition to this speech, there are a couple of other things that suggest he's getting out soon.

One, I was informed by a couple of staffers there's actually a party tonight in Burlington, Vermont, that some are describing as a farewell. And so, that's fairly significant.

Two, several of the non-Internet fund-raisers for Howard Dean have been asked to kind of cease activities for the moment. So there's a sense that they're administratively shutting down. And I'm not sure there's a lot he can do to really put forth a new rationale to move forward.

BLITZER: Judy, you want to weigh in?

WOODRUFF: I just - just quickly, the one person tonight who may be wishing Howard Dean stays in a little longer is John Kerry. Because to the extent Dean is there, he's going to divide the anti- Kerry vote, whatever there is, and that gives Kerry a little bit of a lift.

BLITZER: Can - can vote - can we assume that whatever voters Howard Dean might get would automatically go to John Edwards?

SCHNEIDER: No! You can't assume that at all. I mean, a lot of them would vote for John Kerry because they see John Kerry as the more liberal candidate.

Look, before we write Howard Dean's political obituary, let us keep one thing in mind - he contributed something very important to this campaign. He gave the Democrats backbone. That's very important.

He talked about it tonight. He said, Without me running, without my running in this campaign, do you think those Democrats would have spoken the way they now have about the war in Iraq? Do you think they would have all come out against the education reform bill that they once all voted for? Do you think they would have been so much against President Bush? He gave the Democrats backbone, and he can claim justifiable credit for doing exactly that.

WATSON: Wolf...

BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stand by. We're going to back to all of you.

Does the Kerry bandwagon leave Wisconsin with added momentum or problems ahead? We'll have tonight's results through the eyes of the front-runner.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's continue our coverage of the Wisconsin primary. A big night for John Kerry, but also a big night for John Edwards.

Let's take a look at the vote - as it is, where it stands right now. With almost all of the vote counted - to be precise, let's take a look at this. Ninety percent of the vote now. John Kerry, who will this contest, with 39 percent. But a very close second, with 35 percent going to John Edwards of North Carolina. A disappointing third place for Howard Dean. He has to reassess what he does next.

As we take a look at all of this, Judy, there are still so many questions that remain out there.

WOODRUFF: There certainly are, Wolf.

We've got so many states to come. Two weeks from now, we've got the Super Tuesday states coming. But when you look at tonight, John Kerry, another notch on his belt. He has won Wisconsin. A smaller margin than expected, but he still won. Over 600 delegates he's pulling off.

John Edwards, though, clearly deserves some credit. He came much closer than people had thought. He said he might pull of a surprise in Wisconsin and he has done it.

But, having said all that, it's still a good night for John Kerry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY: I want to thank the state of Wisconsin for moving his cause and this campaign forward tonight.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Rack up another win for John Kerry. This victory more hard-fought than was expected.

KERRY: My friends, tonight I say to all of America, Get ready. A new day is on the way.

WOODRUFF: The Democratic front-runner wins Wisconsin, but is denied a romp after a surprisingly tough challenge from John Edwards.

EDWARDS: Today, the voters of Wisconsin sent a clear message. The message was this: Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear.

WOODRUFF: The North Carolina senator now heads into Super Tuesday with new momentum, his strong Wisconsin showing keeping him in the game.

DEAN: We are not done.

WOODRUFF: But for Howard Dean, another devastating loss brings a tough decision ahead. The former Vermont governor, all but crowned the Democratic nominee before a single vote was cast, has failed to win a single primary. Tonight, he reflected on the grassroots phenomenon that lifted him so high, so fast.

DEAN: Finally, we've got a Democratic Party that talks about its roots again, its core issues again. Finally, Democrats in Washington have learned that they can stand up to the most right-wing president that we've had in my lifetime.

WOODRUFF: And so, Dean returns to his Burlington home to regroup and reassess, and to decide whether his White House dream has finally slipped beyond his grasp.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: So, for these three men, a disappointing night for Howard Dean. For John Kerry, a time to look back and consider what happened, what went wrong for him in terms of not getting a stronger first-place finish. And for John Edwards, Wolf, here's a - here's somebody who has a new lease on this campaign. Maybe he's - maybe he's got something he can turn into victory down the road.

BLITZER: He said he was going to continue no matter what happened in Wisconsin. He clearly has reason to continue right now.

WOODRUFF: Right. He's only won one so far, though. He's got to figure out a way to put another win in his column before he can even think about the nomination.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider has been crunching all the numbers to understand - to help us understand exactly what happened.

What happened tonight?

SCHNEIDER: Late surge for - by John Edwards. Not enough to win, but certainly enough to put him on this map.

Take a look at those voters who said they made up their minds in the last three days of this campaign - three days! They voted for John Edwards over John Kerry by about - boy, by better than 20 points. There was a newspaper endorsement by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and John Edwards opened up criticism of Kerry and Dean on the trade issues in those few days.

Among the voters who decided before the last few days - ah, that's where John Kerry beat John Edwards, by 20 points. This is where the race was, in the end, decided.

Now, what was the top policy issue to these voters? The answer is, the economy. It was all about jobs. And among those voters, look at this. John Edwards had the edge, 46 to 35 over John Kerry. That was the top issue and they were voting for John Edwards to send a message.

There is no evidence in our exit polling that the Edwards voters were anti-Kerry voters. There is plenty of evidence that they were voting to send a message, and the message was about jobs.

BLITZER: And one other thing you pointed out, was among the independents and the Republicans who could vote in this open primary, they went with Edwards.

SCHNEIDER: They certainly did. They went with Edwards, and a lot of them were voting to send that same message - very unhappy about the loss of jobs, very unhappy about foreign trade that they think hurts American workers.

BLITZER: Our national correspondent Kelly Wallace is covering John Kerry's campaign headquarters - at least, campaign headquarters for the next hour or two before he moves on - in Middleton, Wisconsin.

A win is a win is a win. So they have to be happy.

WALLACE: That is clearly the message of the night, Wolf. A win is a win.

But to give our viewers a little sense of what was happening behind the scenes, their exit polling, that our viewers know comes out throughout the day - and the Kerry camp very familiar with that, seeing that that race a lot tighter than anyone expected.

And so we were on the phone with Kerry advisers asking them, What's going on here? And they were right away saying, Well, John Edwards spent 20 percent more on advertising than John Kerry did in Wisconsin, that John Edwards spent more time here than John Kerry. And they continue to say that John Kerry is running a national campaign, and they're saying that John Edwards is, in their words, "cherry-picking," and going from state to state.

But perhaps the best person to ask his reaction about what happened here, Senator Kerry. My colleague Justin Dial asked him earlier tonight if he were surprised about how tight this race turned out to be.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator?

KERRY: We won hugely among the Democrats. We loved it (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the tight race wasn't a surprise at all?

KERRY: No, we expected, with independent and Republicans, to come out (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what's your next move, going from here?

KERRY: Every step of the way. Every vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And we asked advisers if they planned to change the strategy from here on out. In one word, one adviser said, No, nothing to change.

John Kerry to head to Ohio tomorrow and to compete in all the March 2 Super Tuesday states.

But that being said, there is no doubt that advisers will look a bit about what happened here, look at John Edwards' surge, look at the issue, look at the exit polling to see what happened here, and to go on from - from here.

But, Wolf, you know what they keep saying too - the numbers. They say, John Kerry has a record of 16 wins, two losses. And they say John Edwards has one win, 17 losses. So they say the numbers say it's for John Kerry right now - Wolf.

BLITZER: I take it, Kelly, John Kerry not planning on taking any time off. No rest for the weary. Is that right?

WALLACE: Well, no, actually. He does go to Ohio tomorrow, and then on Thursday he'll be in Washington. He is going to get the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, the United States' largest body of labor unions.

But then the plan still remains for Friday and some of Saturday to kind of have a down day, take some time off, work the phones before hitting the road - likely to go to Georgia, New York, California, Minnesota - go to as many Super Tuesday states as possible. But they say right now, Wolf, nothing's changing. BLITZER: All right. So it looks like there might be some rest for the weary. We'll have to wait and see if that changes.

Jeff Greenfield, is that smart politics? Two weeks of intense politicking that has to be done right now, between now and Super Tuesday. Would it be smart for Senator Kerry to take a day or two to rest?

GREENFIELD: Yes, because this is, like, a 15-round fight, or whatever sports analogy we overuse.

Tired candidates make mistakes. One of the reasons John Edwards, I think, is doing well is that this guy runs an hour a day. I don't know how he does it.

There's one other point I really want to put on the table before we leave. CNN has a big decision to make. We have a debate February 26 that Larry King is moderating. Under the threshold rules that CNN and the L.A. Times worked out, Dennis Kucinich and Rev. Al Sharpton either miss the cut, or depending on how you define it, barely make the cut. John Edwards, I think, is desperately hoping that CNN's decision is to keep it a two-person debate. I have a hunch John Kerry would rather have it a four-person debate, and you know what Kucinich and Sharpton would prefer.

There's no question that one-on-one, John Edwards is the best communicator in the field, and has been waiting for a one-on-one chance with John Kerry for weeks. So what CNN and the L.A. Times decide to do about the two minor candidates - and I'm perfectly prepared to call them that - may have a great deal to do with whether John Edwards gets his wish.

BLITZER: That debate is February 26. But isn't it co-sponsored with the Los Angeles Times and sanctioned by the Democratic Party? In effect, doesn't the Democratic Party have a say in this as well?

GREENFIELD: As I understand, the threshold put down was, you have to win - you have to have won 10 percent in a primary. The closest Sharpton came - not counting the non-binding D.C. beauty contest - was 9.6 percent in South Carolina. Dennis Kucinich won 15 percent, I think in the Maine caucuses.

So, the Democratic National Committee - they are not sponsors of this. They are out of the debate business from here on in. So it's not up to them. It's up to the sponsors. And it's going to be a very, very interesting call because you know, we haven't seen a two- person debate since Gore and Bradley. Even in the Republicans, Alan Keyes stayed in.

So we'll see what happens with this one. But I'm going to be watching with baited breath, whatever that means.

BLITZER: All of us - all of us will be.

One final question, Jeff. Howard Dean - he hasn't drop out yet. Assuming he doesn't drop out, and still wants that platform - he certainly will be allowed to participate in that debate.

GREENFIELD: This is true, but it's just really hard to imagine that, as of Thursday, he is going to stay in.

Remember how much he pointed to Wisconsin, and this was his make- or-break state? And to come in third with - what? - 16 percent of the vote? I don't see the argument for him going on at all, no matter how much he has changed the Democratic Party and shown what you can do with the Internet, which is impressive.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens. Important decisions coming up, clearly. That February 26 in Los Angeles, that CNN and the Los Angeles Times will co-sponsor. Our own Larry King will moderate that debate.

The Kerry and Bush campaigns are already exchanging shots. If it's Kerry versus Bush, just how angry could a general election battle really get? We'll ask two of the hosts of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I want to thank so many across Wisconsin and across America, who have given this campaign their health and their hearts. My friends, tonight I say to all of America, Get ready. A new day is on the way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: John Kerry speaking earlier tonight. A clear win, 40 percent of the vote so far, with 94 percent of the vote now in. Forty percent going to John Kerry, 35 percent - a nice second place - for John Edwards. Howard Dean a disappointing third place with only 18 percent of the vote.

John Kerry's Wisconsin win moves him a step closer to a likely showdown with President Bush, but it's by no means a done deal yet. Still, the Kerry and Bush campaigns already have their political knives out for one another, even though the Democratic race has yet to be decided.

Recent polls suggest a Bush-Kerry race would, in fact, be a close one if it were held right now. Look at this CBs/New York Times survey just out showing Kerry 5 points ahead of the president, 48 to 43 percent.

Let's bring back our "CROSSFIRE" co-hosts, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. They're joining us from Nashville.

Tucker Carlson, how realistic is that tight race, assuming - it's a hypothetical contest, obviously - between Kerry and Bush. How worried should the Republicans be?

CARLSON: Well, of course they're going to be tight. I mean, there's been no re-alignment, really - no massive re-alignment, anyway - since the 2000 election. The country's still evenly split. And there is a real anti-bush mood out there. I mean, look at The New York Times best-seller list. I mean, virtually half of the top 10 books are anti-Bush screeds. And some of them really screeds. I mean, pretty far out stuff, comparable to some of the anti-Clinton stuff in the late 1990's

So, yes. There's a real anti-Bush feeling. The question is, Can you win a campaign, essentially running against Bush the man? Bush is a bad guy. I mean, that's great in the primaries, but at some point the candidate - presumably, it'll be John Kerry - is going to have to come up with a plan, not only to get American troops out of Iraq, but to make sure Iraq doesn't turn into a disaster. That's a complicated and tall order and he has shown no inclination to do that yet.

He'll be forced to, but it'll be on questions like that, one hopes, that the election will be fought. And you go to think that Bush has a slight advantage, anyway, on that.

BLITZER: Paul Begala, among independents and Republicans who actually voted in the open primary in Wisconsin, John Edwards did better than John Kerry, suggesting that he might do better in a general election in November than John Kerry.

BEGALA: Well, and that's the case that Edwards is going to make. I mean, I don't think the Kerry campaign should take much solace.

I heard a quote from Senator Kerry earlier in the report where he said, Well, I won among the Democrats. And that's certainly. He won an overwhelming landslide among the Democrats. But he ought to be very concerned that he lost so badly among the independents and the Republicans that voted in the open primary in Wisconsin.

I mean, the name of this game is winning in November. It's not winning among the Democrats. I mean, it's not enough to get to the Super Bowl. You got to win it. And I think Senator Kerry is going to have to look very hard at how he matches up against a guy like Edwards.

Jeff mentioned the debate that's coming up that CNN is sponsoring in Los Angeles on the 26th. That could be the way that John Kerry goes and appeals to those independents and Republicans instead of simply just saying, Well, I'm the Democrats' favorite. He's going to have to start to lay the groundwork for a general election. If he wants to take on President Bush, he's going to have to win a lot of independents and maybe even some thoughtful Republicans. And there are a lot of them too.

BLITZER: You - as you know, Paul, money is going to be an important factor, especially New York, Ohio, California. The media markets are not cheap out there. Do these guys have the money to compete effectively, especially John Edwards?

BEGALA: Well, I talked to the Edwards campaign today, one of the most senior people in the campaign, and asked him that very question. He said, basically, Look, we're going to campaign in New York, Ohio and Georgia. I heard Dan Lothian report that earlier, and he's right. I can confirm that.

Those are three states - they're pretty expensive - but he's not going to be campaigning in California, which Richard Nixon famously called "the big enchilada," or six other states. So Edwards begin by conceding seven out of the 10 states on Super Tuesday. Kerry does have the resources to play in all of them.

But it's still hard for Edwards. Those are three big states. But he's going to have to play in all 10 if he actually wants to be the nominee.

BLITZER: Tucker, what's the strategy - the Republicans, who support President Bush, should be pursuing in these immediate weeks?

CARLSON: Well, I mean, they should - I mean, as long as there's a real contest between the Democrats - I mean, they ought to, to the extent they can, let that contest take place. I mean, there's no reason to, you know, intervene when your enemies are pounding on each other.

I do think it's - I mean, the idea that John Edwards is actually going to run against NAFTA. I mean, if you think about that for a minute, it's kind of remarkable. NAFTA is the Clinton legacy. That and, you know, school uniforms and a couple other tiny programs that I've forgotten.

But NAFTA - I mean, that is Clintonism, right? That's - that's what it means to be a centrist Democrat. That's the new Democratic catechism, or part of it. And that idea that a main - you know, one of the last two remaining candidates would be running against that, possibly even forcing the front-runner to come out and say, Well, actually I have deep misgivings about NAFTA too. That's a major shift in where the party is. It's - we're leaving the Clinton era and moving left. And that's, I think, a bad thing for the Democratic Party. Very, very bad. And probably good news for the Republicans.

BLITZER: Lest we forget, Paul Begala, there was actually a real race for an open House of Representatives seat in Kentucky today as well. And guess what? A Democrat won.

BEGALA: It's really - he not just won, Wolf. He won in a landslide.

Ben Chandler is the guy who won. He's the Democrat. He had just been defeated a few months ago by Ernie Fletcher, who was a Republican congressman. Chandler then ran in Fletcher's district - in the district of the man he just had run against. Presumably, you'd think that they would be a little angry with - with Chandler there. And a district where George W. Bush got 56 percent of the vote in the 2000 election.

Chandler, though, won by 12 points against a popular state senator, Alice Forgy Kerr, who ran ads, Wolf, saying - get this - George W. Bush and I are cut out of the same cloth. She ran as the Bush clone, as it were. And she lost. And I think this is a canary in a coalmine. Democrats had not picked up a Republican congressional seat in a special election since Harris Wofford in Pennsylvania won that Senate seat against Dick Thornburg. That was the beginning of the end of the last Bush presidency. I think Democrats tonight, with this landslide win in Kentucky, are hoping that history is repeating itself.

BLITZER: Why are you smiling, Tucker?

CARLSON: I'm just smiling because - I mean, there's no denying it. It was a bad week to be a Bush clone. It was a bad week to put up a spot saying, you know, I'm Bush Jr. or whatever.

But that doesn't mean it's going to be a bad year for that. I mean, I think, you know, this is the classic mistake in political analysis is to assume that six months from now is an extension of today. And, of course, it's not. And if there's any lesson of the past six weeks, it is that, Boy, it's very volatile.

There is a strong anti-Bush mood in parts of the country. There are a lot of angry, energized Democrats. But Bush's week this week is not representative of the next eight months worth of weeks, I don't think. I mean, if it is, he's going to lose. But I suspect it won't be.

BEGALA: I think that's right, Wolf. But...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ...Democrats and the media.

BLITZER: We're going to leave it right there. Tucker Carlson and Paula Begala, doing what they always do so well - disagreeing, which is not a great surprise. Thanks to both of you.

Today's results showed the differences between the haves and the have-nots. Bill Schneider explains what we're talking about when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John Kerry the winner. Take a look at this - with 93 percent of the vote in the Wisconsin primary, he gets 40 percent so far, to 35 percent for John Edwards. Eighteen percent for Howard Dean. This - still it's a big surprise, the strong second-place showing by John Edwards.

Let's get some analysis on what Wisconsin voters were thinking.

CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is looking at all of these poll results, the exit polls, which tell us a lot about what was on the mind of voters.

SCHNEIDER: Do you know John Edwards likes to talk about two Americas? It was one of his favorite themes. He said, There's an America for ordinary, working people in America, for the rich and privileged. Well, let's take a look at the two Americas that voted in Wisconsin. We split the voters right down the middle: those who made under $50,000 - these are your horny-handed (ph) sons of toil, we might call them. They voted for John Kerry. John Edwards got 31 percent of the vote. Kerry beat him by 11 points.

Now, let's take a look at the higher income voters - the half of the voters in Wisconsin who made over $50,000. Edwards actually did better. He edged out John Kerry, 38 to 37. Kerry did a little worse, Edwards did a little better. These voters appear to have been angry over job losses, angry over trade.

It doesn't - you don't have to be poor to angry over these issues. Rich populists - who knew?

BLITZER: Who knew?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Judy, as - what are you going to be looking forward to that - for, in the next few days as you cover this contest?

WOODRUFF: Well, one think I'll be thing I'll be looking - we'll all looking for, Wolf, is how is John Edwards going to continue to draw distinctions between himself and John Kerry? What is he going to say other than the fact that they disagree over NAFTA? And even John Kerry has said that he would like to amend NAFTA, he would like to make changes so that it's fair to workers who are disadvantaged by it.

The other thing is that I think, Wolf, we really need to keep in mind that despite the fact that 60 percent of the people who went to the polls today in Wisconsin had voted against John Kerry, there is a history of one presidential primary after another - I just looked at some numbers tonight - where people came close, but they still did not go on to win the nomination or the election.

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, what's your final thought, as you look ahead?

GREENFIELD: I really want to see what John Edwards is going to say - to say to voters, This is why you can't go with the presumptive nominee, or the man we (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And I think apart from trade, that Judy pointed out and some of us have, I think the distinction in upbringing and style is going to be one that John Edwards is going to bring ever closer to the surface.

I'm the son of a millworker, he's the son of a rich guy. I'm the outsider, he's the insider. I speak the language of ordinary Americans, and John Kerry speaks the language of a guy who's been in the Senate 18 years.

I think we're going to see that distinction drawn as subtly as possible, because you can't confront John Kerry frontally in saying you're a bad guy. That's not the message. But he - I think John Edwards is going to make biography one of the key issues in the next couple of weeks. BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield. All right. Thanks very much. Judy Woodruff.

Everyone, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll take a look at an updated vote tally from Wisconsin.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Another big win for John Kerry, but an impressive second-place finish for John Edwards.

Let's take a look at the vote as it's coming in right now. With 95 percent in, 40 percent for John Kerry, 34 percent for John Edwards. A six-point split - that's a lot closer than so many of us had expected. Only 18 percent for Howard Dean.

Much more coverage coming up, a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." That will start right after this.

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