With California polls still open, John Edwards resigned his candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination Tuesday afternoon, leaving frontrunner John Kerry with the party nomination firmly in his grasp.
Kerry won every state but Vermont on Super Tuesday by wide margins, and his strong showing throughout the primary race has forced his biggest opponents, such as Edwards and Howard Dean, to step down. Although Kerry spent only two days campaigning in California, he easily won. With 95.2 percent of precincts reporting, Kerry showed a majority of 64.5 percent over Edward’s 19.7 percent. Santa Barbara County’s final count showed Kerry in first place with 63.5 percent of votes and Edwards in a distant second with 18.1 percent.
In Isla Vista and UCSB precincts, Kerry earned 58 percent of votes to Edwards’ 16 percent. Though most Californians supported Kerry in the polls, many had already voted for Edwards before hearing of his departure from the race. Vice President of Campus Democrats Courtney Weaver said she was disappointed to hear of Edwards’ resignation in the middle of the primary poll.
“I was shocked when Edwards dropped out,” she said. “I voted at 7:23 in the morning, and he hadn’t dropped out at that point to my knowledge. I really thought that he was gonna make it a competition to the end and stay in the race.”
Adam Graff, director of public affairs for the Campus Democrats, said Kerry was not his first choice, but that he would rather support any candidate other than Bush.
“I will campaign against Bush any day,” Graff said. “I will work my ass off like I have never worked before to defeat Bush and to make sure he is as weak as I can possibly make him in the general election, but I am not going to campaign for John Kerry.”
Weaver also said Kerry was not her first choice, but after the first candidates she supported all withdrew, she said she would turn her energies to supporting Kerry.
“I was going to vote for Carol Mosely-Brown just on principle; I thought it would be cool to be able to vote for a woman. Then she dropped out and endorsed Dean, and I was going to vote for Dean, but then he dropped out,” Weaver said. “As a Democrat, it’s now my duty to support our nominee.”
Weaver is among several other California Democrats who said they felt their votes were decided already by the primaries in other states. Campus Democrats President Marissa Brown said the primary election system does downplay the importance of California’s votes, but that the media makes it difficult for candidates to compete with leading candidates’ momentum.
“It’s not completely fair, but I think that it gives us an idea of how maybe other people are thinking,” Brown said. “What I think hurts it is how the media controls what’s put out and what the view is that people are being fed.”
The Associated Press poll revealed that voters are primarily focused on electing a candidate who can beat Bush in the general election next fall and proved Tuesday their confidence in Kerry. Graff said that of all the democratic candidates, he has some doubt in Kerry’s ability to win but has confidence that Bush will lose.
“I’m very nervous, but don’t get me wrong: I think he actually has a good chance of beating Bush because the chickens are coming home to roost for Bush right now, and it’s high time that they did,” Graff said.
– The Associated Press also contributed to this report.