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Experts: Super Tuesday pivotal

John Kerry's big win in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday has him on solid footing for the Democratic presidential nomination, Duke professors said.

"The New Hampshire results definitely strengthen Kerry's position as the clear front-runner," said Bruce Jentleson, professor of public policy studies and political science and director of the Sanford Institute of Public Policy. "The campaigning there and in Iowa seem to have tapped some of his strengths in ways that are making him look quite presidential."

Michael Munger, professor and chair of political science, agreed that Kerry has become the frontrunner.

"[He] has showed toughness, resourcefulness and a completely unexpected ability to connect with people," Munger said. "A complete surprise in both Iowa and New Hampshire, given the poll results of just a month ago."

The race may take a different direction in coming weeks, however. Tuesday, Feb. 3 will be a crucial turning point, as the Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, Delaware and South Carolina primaries and the North Dakota and New Mexico caucuses will take place.

"It seems to me that the New Hampshire primary did very little to clarify the contest," said associate professor of political science Christopher Gelpi. "[Howard] Dean did well enough to claim that he has turned things around--or at least stopped his decline--and he has enough money to stay in the race."

Munger said Tuesday does not look good for Dean, as the former frontrunner has "no chance" to win Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma or South Carolina. The other states, in which Munger said Dean has a chance, are not Democratic strongholds and do not offer many delegates.

"He still has the organizational muscle, both from the Deanie Weanies who volunteer for him and the two major unions--SEIU and AFSCME--that endorsed him early. He has raised more than $42 million," Munger said. "Still, he may turn out to be a slightly more successful Phil Gramm, who in 1996 was assumed to be a strong contender for the Republican nomination. But people just didn't like him, and all his money couldn't change that."

Professors said North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, whose campaign turns to his native South and the West next week, is a viable candidate.

"Although Senator Edwards' showing in New Hampshire was not as good as he expected, his second place finish in Iowa and the fact that the campaign is moving out of the Northeast gives him a little life," noted Kenny Haynie, associate professor of political science. "If Kerry wins more than 2 of the 7 contests next week, I think the race is over. If Edwards has a strong showing in several of the states, I think that he becomes an attractive running mate possibility."

Wesley Clark, Joe Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich fared extremely poorly in New Hampshire, according to Munger, and Al Sharpton is not a serious contender for the nomination. Munger said voters responded unfavorably to Clark's arrogance and he fell flat, hard and early.

"Just because all the junior officers act like you're smart and laugh at your jokes, you can't conclude you should run for president," he said. "In the army, they have to pretend to respect you, or they'll be shot. Voters have a choice, and boy did they make it."

Clark and Kerry both emphasized their veteran status in speeches to supporters Tuesday evening, which Gelpi said was curious. He said all candidates must be sure not to spend too much time on international affairs, given that the war in Iraq was only the third most important issue in the campaign for New Hampshire Democrats, behind the economy and health care.

Jentleson said the race should be further narrowed by the Feb. 3 primaries. "Politics is unpredictable and it's impossible to know what potholes may be around the corner," he said. "Dean, Edwards and Clark are still in it, although it's likely after next week's set of seven contests the field will winnow further."

The pressure to find a Democratic candidate and begin to mount an attack against Bust will increase now, said professors. "There is going to be pressure to wrap this up and choose a VP," said Scott DeMarchi, assistant professor of political science. "The disturbing thing for the Democrats is that most of these candidates--especially Kerry, Dean and Clark--are way too loose with their comments.... So I worry for the Democrats."

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