Kerry leading in Wisconsin; Dean campaign chair out

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

WAUSAU, Wis. -- A confident John Kerry launched a full-throttle attack on President Bush's economic policies, mostly ignoring his Democratic rivals on the eve of the Wisconsin primary. Howard Dean's campaign shed another top manager and John Edwards vowed to press on no matter how he fares today.

Kerry, who has a commanding lead in the race to oppose Bush this fall, chided the president for taking time out Sunday to attend the Daytona 500, saying the country was bleeding jobs while he posed for a "photo opportunity." Bush had donned a racing jacket to officially open NASCAR's most prestigious event in front of some 180,000 fans.

Kerry for the most part has chosen in recent days to aim his Campaign 2004 rhetoric directly at Bush as he has lapped his competitors, winning all but the South Carolina and Oklahoma delegate-selection contests.

Polls have shown Kerry with a wide lead heading into today's vote, but Edwards vowed to press ahead. While he has sought throughout the primary season to avoid attacking his rivals, Edwards said he would make differences clear and insisted there's plenty of time for voters to see the differences.

For his part Edwards declared "there are differences" with his Democratic rivals and said he was confident his campaign was gaining momentum. He said he would remain in the race well into March and the Super Tuesday round of electoral faceoffs.

Dean told reporters: "Let me remind you all that I have more delegates than everybody else in this race except John Kerry. So I think the campaign obituaries that some of you are writing are a little bit misplaced."

Kerry later campaigned with fellow Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, who recalled visiting the state during his brother's campaign in 1960.

In the Dean campaign, the departure of campaign chairman Steve Grossman was the second high-level change in less than three weeks; campaign manager Joe Trippi was ousted in the wake of Dean's losses to Kerry in Iowa and New Hampshire.

It was during a brief question-and-answer session with reporters that Dean acknowledged Grossman had left, and just before the former Vermont governor was to appear at a campaign event in La Crosse, Wis.

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