Kerry takes five states

Chad Barnes, a registered Democrat of Pleasant Hill, casts his vote in Tuesday’s New Mexico Caucus at the Bruce King building in Clovis. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry rolled up big victories and a pile of delegates in five states including New Mexico on Tuesday night. His rivals John Edwards and Wesley Clark kept their candidacies alive with singular triumphs in a dramatic cross-country contest.
Edwards easily won his native South Carolina and Clark, a retired Army general from Arkansas, eked out victory in neighboring Oklahoma. Howard Dean earned no wins and a handful of delegates, his candidacy in peril. Joe Lieberman was shut out, too, and dropped out of the race.
‘‘It’s a huge night,’’ Kerry told The Associated Press, even as rivals denied him a coveted sweep.
Racking up victories in Missouri, Arizona, North Dakota, New Mexico and Delaware, Kerry suggested his rivals were regional candidates.
‘‘I compliment John Edwards, but I think you have to run a national campaign, and I think that’s what we’ve shown tonight,’’ the four-term Massachusetts senator said. ‘‘You can’t cherry-pick the presidency.’’
Kerry won New Mexico’s first presidential caucus Tuesday, and said, ‘‘I want to thank the voters of New Mexico for such amazing support in today’s contest. I am stunned by the results and truly honored and humbled by the confidence that so many voters in New Mexico have shown to me today.’’
In New Mexico, Kerry had 39 percent of the vote with 60 percent of caucus sites reporting. Gen. Wesley Clark was second with 22 percent; former Gov. Howard Dean had 19 percent. Sen. Edwards had 11 percent, Rep. Dennis Kucinich had 5 percent, and Joe Lieberman, who dropped out of the race earlier in the day, had 3 percent.
The vote totals included roughly 23,000 mail-in ballots. Officials estimated the ballots cast at roughly 75,000.
With Iowa and New Hampshire already in his pocket, Kerry boasts a record of 7-2 in primary season contests. He won three states with more than 50 percent of the vote, and ran strong in all seven states, especially among voters favoring a candidate with experience or someone can beat President Bush. Still, the undisputed front-runner missed a chance to put two major rivals away.