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Kerry has it all but locked up

For Democratic front-runner Sen. John Kerry, the delegate arithmetic is simple. If he wins California, New York and a few other states by good margins newxt Tuesday, he’ll probably win the nomination.
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As befits its name, Demo Derby does see the Democratic presidential race as a derby — but sometimes variety demands a new image: John Kerry appears to be a massive boulder rolling downhill, a boulder bound for Boston, where Democrats meet in July to formally select their party’s nominee.

Next Tuesday is the biggest day in the entire primary calendar, with 1,151 delegates at stake — one-third of all those elected in the primaries and caucuses.

In California, where 370 delegates will be chosen, Kerry holds a big lead in the most recent statewide Field Poll, with 60 percent to Edwards’ 19 percent among likely voters.

A few weeks ago, before Howard Dean was tossed from his trusty donkey, some pundits said a two-man Kerry-vs.-Edwards race would be intrinsically more dramatic, would present sharper choices than the nine-person traffic jam of Democratic contenders in December.

But as it turned out, both Kerry and Edwards have proceeded pretty cautiously and politely. Neither has taken out the brass knuckles or blackjacks they might have in their pockets.

Edwards does have a difficult task — should he condemn Kerry as an inept campaigner or accuse him or representing discredited policies of the past? Edwards voted for most of the very same polices Kerry supports.

Debate continued the pattern
And Thursday night's debate continued the pattern: Edwards criticizing Kerry for voting for a few free trade accords that Edwards opposed, but with relatively small volume U.S. trading partners, Chile and Singapore.

As Thursday’s debate opened, Kerry was still basking in his ever-building roster of supporters. Democratic super-delegates in Congress who endorsed Kerry in recent days include Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Rep. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Kerry also pocketed the endorsement of the most influential voice of the liberal establishment, the New York Times editorial page. (New York has 236 delegates up for grabs on Tuesday).

The Times advised its readers Thursday that Kerry while Kerry’s critics accuse him of “an inability to take strong, clear positions” he is to be lauded for “his appreciation that life is not simple.”

Life may not be simple — but for Kerry the delegate arithmetic is. If he wins California, New York and a few other states by good margins, he’ll probably win the nomination.