John Kerry looks tough to beat in five Democratic presidential contests Tuesday, party strategists say, with dreams of a decisive sweep hinging on two states _ South Carolina and Oklahoma.
The results of those two races may determine whether Kerry delivers a knockout punch, or a glancing blow.
Heading into a frantic weekend of campaigning, public polls showed the Massachusetts lawmaker with a commanding lead in Missouri, Arizona and North Dakota _ states with 143 delegates at stake. But pollsters working for the campaigns said the race was tightening in Missouri and Arizona.
A look at some of the campaigns:
Former general goes after Bush in N.M., Ariz.
As he barnstormed across two states crucial to keeping his campaign alive, Wesley Clark sharpened his criticism of President Bush Saturday, calling him "the most divisive, polarizing leader in recent American history."
Clark, who has targeted Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma as the states most likely to deliver him a badly needed win, abandoned his criticism of front-runner John Kerry.
At a rally in southern New Mexico, Clark was introduced by Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson who called him "a compassionate, generous leader" with momentum and electability.
Former Vermont governor goes after Kerry
Howard Dean looked to gain an edge over Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry on Saturday by labeling the Massachusetts senator the "hand maiden of special interests."
Dean, a one-time front-runner, has been stepping up his criticism of Kerry. With his original plan to campaign as the front-runner spoiled by the losses, Dean is trying to position himself as Kerry's chief rival.
More than 1,400 people came to see Dean in Seattle on Saturday, lining up around a city block to get into his town hall meeting on health care.
Senator says he's "ready for a shot at George Bush'
Sen. John Edwards, a southerner who has acknowledged that South Carolina is a must-win state for him, swept through three states outside the region on Saturday in hopes of building new support in the next burst of delegate-selection contests.
The North Carolina Democrat campaigned in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Missouri before heading back to South Carolina.
"I'm so ready for a shot at George Bush. If you give me a shot at George Bush, I'll give you the White House," Edwards said to loud cheers.
Kerry ignores rivals, focuses fire on Bush
Continuing to build on a string of big-name endorsements, John Kerry sought to broaden his message Saturday by arguing that his campaign is designed to "offer America hope and leadership."
Adding to his momentum, Kerry picked up still more backing. Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm and Lt. Gov. John Cherry endorsed him Saturday, as did Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.
Kerry returned to Missouri Saturday for his second sweep through the state, then headed to Oklahoma.
Uphill campaign for senator still upbeat
It has been a few days since Sen. Joe Lieberman called his fifth-place finish in New Hampshire a "three-way split decision for third" and a mandate to continue his bid for the White House.
Lieberman, who is campaigning hard in Delaware, points out that voters in 48 states, some more heavily populated by moderate and conservative Democrats, have not yet had their say.
"I always said that Feb. 3 would be a more important day for me and so that's why I go forward with a sense of purpose and optimism," Lieberman said.
The reverend positions for a showing in S. Carolina
In the past two days, newspapers in South Carolina reported
that Sharpton far outshone other Democratic presidential candidates, receiving enthusiastic support from crowds and debate watchers.
In the state where as many as half of Tuesday's primary voters could be black, the jowly 49-year old Pentecostal minister expects to fare well enough to earn some delegates at the Democratic convention in Boston this summer.
Go to www.sptimes.com/election for more Campaign 2004 coverage, including the latest polls.