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New York race recap
Howard Dean's dramatic fall opened up the New York primary race.
Howard Dean's dramatic fall opened up the New York primary race.
Kerry easily wins New York

(CNN) -- Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry continued his march to the Democratic nomination on Super Tuesday, winning New York and most of the 10 states that held primaries on March 2.

When New York Democrats finished up plans for their Super Tuesday primary last September, most figured a candidate from a neighboring state -- former Vermont governor Howard Dean, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts or Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut-- would command the headlines come March 2, 2004.

Weeks ahead of the primary, Kerry was the odds-on favorite to take the state, and to take on President Bush in the general election. Kerry's only viable competition came from from North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who never registered above 3 percent in statewide polls before February.

The New York Times called the primary a "make-or-break contest" for Edwards -- his best opportunity to prove he could win a delegate-rich Northern state and be a viable alternative to Kerry nationwide. But Edwards was unable to overcome the Massachusetts senator and Kerry won handily with more than 60 percent of the vote.

The Rev. Al Sharpton also sought to make a big impression in his home state, although he did not factor significantly in New York (or national) polls during the peak of the primary election season.

Kerry, meanwhile, hoped convincing victories in New York and nine other Super Tuesday contests would knock Edwards, his last real competitor for the nomination, out of the race, which is exactly what happened. Edwards withdrew a day after Super Tuesday and said he would do all he could to help Kerry win the general election in November.

The Massachusetts senator campaigned hard for New York votes, knowing firsthand how comebacks and pitfalls had already defined the 2004 Democratic campaign.

In early January 2004, Kerry tied for fifth with Rep. Dick Gephardt, garnering the support of 6 percent of surveyed voters in a Marist University poll. Edwards tied for last in the same survey, with a paltry 2 percent backing.

His national profile and popularity having soared late in 2003, Howard Dean ruled the field in that survey, more than doubling that of his closest foe, Lieberman.

Then came the January 19 Iowa caucuses. Amidst a bitter battle between pre-race favorites Dean and Gephardt, both Kerry and Edwards surged from nowhere days before the contest to finish first and second, respectively. (Dean placed third and Gephardt fourth, a result that prompted him to end his presidential bid the following day.)

The Massachusetts senator rode the momentum from his Iowa win into New Hampshire, winning that primary and all but two other contests.

Edwards, meanwhile, won South Carolina and had several strong second-place showings. Dean racked up scores of delegates, but not any wins. Both men pointed to the February 17 Wisconsin primary as their chance to show that they were Kerry's main competitors for the nomination.

As in Iowa, Edwards surpassed expectations in Wisconsin to rally within a few percentage points of the eventual winner, Kerry. Dean lagged far behind -- with roughly half the votes of the two senators -- to place a disappointing third and ended his campaign a day later.

The move freed up Dean's broad New York support base, led by five U.S. representatives, dozens of state legislators and 38 of the state's 62 Democratic county chairs. His rank-and-file backers -- including 70,000 voters who had contributed money twice or volunteered for the campaign, according to a campaign list -- also were suddenly up for grabs.

Almost immediately, Edwards redoubled his New York efforts, hoping to capitalize on Dean's exit and his own momentum.

Several top New York-based former Dean staffers launched a Web site urging the former governor to back Edwards, while the North Carolina senator extolled his former rival on the campaign trail and called him his "friend."

"You always get resentful towards the guy who beats your guy, and in this case that was Kerry," said Ethan Geto, Dean's state director, 11 days before the primary. "Edwards, if he played every card right from now until March 2 and hit his issues right on the head, ... has a serious shot at scoring a startling victory here."

In addition to several closed-door fund-raisers, Edwards spent the weekend after Wisconsin pushing for votes from Long Island to New York City to Rochester and, like Kerry, buying TV ads in upstate New York -- but not in the costly metropolitan New York City market.

Yet, Kerry remained the indisputable New York favorite. A Marist survey, conducted between February 17 and 19, showed him leading Edwards 66 percent to 14 percent among likely voters.

The poll offered some wiggle room for Edwards, though, as only half of those polled said they "strongly" supported their choice and nearly half said they wanted the Democratic campaign to continue past Super Tuesday.

Kerry, meanwhile, campaigned in Harlem and Queens, raised money in posh sections of Manhattan, and sat down with New York Times staff one week ahead of the primary. On February 26, the newspaper endorsed him in advance of the upcoming primary.

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Rep. Gregory Meeks and Rep. Charles Rangel also supported Kerry.

As he had throughout the primary season, Sharpton stayed active in New York campaign circles in stressing urban and minority issues. But besides a second-place finish in D.C. and third in South Carolina, the civil rights activist failed to make a splash nationally and only got 7 percent support in the February 20 Marist poll.

Fellow long shot Rep. Dennis Kucinich also never factored into the New York race, despite his best showing to date -- a strong second -- in the February 24 Hawaii caucuses.

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