Race for candidacy over, bring on the next phase

It seems John Kerry is the Democratic candidate for the presidency. Taking into account the reports that John Edwards, his closest competition, is to drop out of the race today to Kerry’s landslide win in all but one state, it is apparent the Democratic Party’s plan to confirm its presidential candidate earlier than usual has worked.

Edwards unofficially dropped out of the race, according to Associated Press reports, and will make an official statement later today. Giving a speech Tuesday night, he complimented Kerry, which seemed like a bid for the Vice Presidency. Kerry, while returning the favor of complimenting his opponent, responded with what CNN’s Larry King called “his first speech as Democratic candidate for the presidency.” In the speech Kerry said Edwards has “great promise for leadership to come,” but was careful not to mention the words “vice president.”

Both Kerry and Edwards were on the VP shortlist for Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, which led many pundits to predict a Kerry/Edwards ticket. Most prominently, The New York Times on Monday featured a front-page story elaborating how the two candidates could join forces despite minor differences in the past.

Former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, instrumental in picking Joe Lieberman as VP candidate over both Kerry and Edwards, said to CNN she “wouldn’t be too surprised” if Edwards indeed turns out to be Kerry’s running mate in November.

One strike against Edwards, though, is that he failed to win as many “southern” states as he had hoped, with a win in South Carolina and a close call in Georgia. Traditionally, the South is significant in presidential races. No candidate has ever won the presidency without winning at least five southern states. This appears to be the main reason for Kerry’s decision not to announce anything prematurely.

The strategic rescheduling of most primaries by the Democratic Party paid off. The plan to avoid infighting and instead focus on the issues has worked. Incumbent President George W. Bush not only started running campaign ads several weeks ago — something the White House reportedly had been trying to avoid — but also felt it necessary to appear on Meet the Press, a strategy that subsequent opinion polls suggest has hurt rather than helped his approval ratings.

The Democratic primaries continue next Tuesday and the two other remaining candidates, Dennis Kucinich, who will speak at the Special Events Center tonight, and Rev. Al Sharpton, will continue to lobby for their causes. But short of an official announcement at the Democratic Convention this summer in Boston, Kerry seems to have the nomination in his back pocket.