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Without clear leader party must be careful not to self-destruct

The Democratic Convention in July now must seem even further away to the presidential candidates than before. As the results started coming in from the primaries Tuesday, candidates made their speeches and remarks on live TV. Some said they will keep their course, while some may change it, and one dropped out altogether.

Tuesday marked the first time in this year’s race for the Democratic nomination that more than one state voted at once. The seven states voting not only totaled 12 percent of the delegates the candidates need to win, it also included a wide variety of states nationwide, including the first “southern” state, South Carolina, and may be a good representation of what to expect from here on.

Joe Lieberman, the man who at the beginning of the race jokingly said “I know I can win this, because I have done it in 2000,” dropped out of the race entirely. After failing to win a single state, and with his self proclaimed “Joementum” stifled, he announced he had made the “difficult but realistic decision” to end the “quest for the presidency.” Three down six to go.

John Kerry’s campaign seems to be on the right track. He said on CNN, “I think we are moving, I think this campaign is moving forward.” With his record so far, this is hard to deny. The polls also suggest he has a good chance against President George W. Bush, whose approval ratings of 49 percent was even lower than last week’s all time low, according to a CNN/USA Today poll.

Howard Dean, still underperforming but defiant, said he will “keep going and going.” Stressing that, “anybody is better than George W. Bush,” he suggested “I think we should give him the trip to Mars.” He also repeated his mantra that America needs a fresh leadership, “but we are not going to get that from someone inside Washington.”

Dean’s words may well sound hollow to former campaign manager Joe Trippi, who walked because Dean hired former Al Gore and Bill Clinton aide Roy Neel. Proclaiming the country does not need “Washington insiders” only to be endorsed by Gore and later to hire his former chief campaign manager may damage Dean’s campaign in the long run. Trippi will have ample opportunity to point out Dean’s inconsistency, as he now works as analyst on MSNBC.

With most of the $41 million gone from his campaign’s war chest, Dean will have to work even harder from here on out to stand a chance against the other candidates.

But with the majority of the delegates still unclaimed, the campaign will likely go on for weeks, if not months, before a clear winner is selected. And as long as the candidates do not start smear campaigns against each other to win the ticket — thereby inadvertently hurting their party — the winner’s chances against Bush in November seem better than ever before.