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Voters see Kerry as best placed to beat Bush
( 2004-02-04 13:49) (Agencies)

Democrat voters are mad at U.S. President George W. Bush and are rallying around the candidate they think can defeat him -- John Kerry, exit polls showed on Tuesday.

Democrats also cited the economy, jobs and health care as their biggest concerns, with Iraq and terror fears receding somewhat in voters minds.

Kerry, a four-term Massachusetts senator, won in Missouri, Arizona, Delaware, New Mexico and North Dakota by doing well among most ethnic, age and income groups. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards won in South Carolina and retired Gen. Wesley Clark won a narrow victory in Oklahoma.

South Carolina was the first contest with a significant black population, and black voters split their vote between Kerry and Edwards, both of whom easily outpaced Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist.

Elsewhere both Edwards and Kerry appealed to blacks and Hispanics, key Democratic constituencies, although their respective popularity with those groups varied a bit from state to state, according to exit polls conducted for the television networks.

Although there was some variation from one state to another, voters who thought Kerry was more experienced and best positioned to beat Bush rallied to him. Edwards tended to do well among voters drawn to his positive message and perceived ability to empathize with them.

Even in South Carolina, where Edwards had a double-digit lead over Kerry, Kerry did far better among voters who based their selection on who could beat Bush. Edwards did better among those who voted based on the economy or that he "cares about people."

With Kerry widely viewed as the front-runner, the voters surveyed in the exit polls were asked how they would feel if Kerry did end up as the party's nominee, and in most states around 80 per cent said they would be satisfied with that outcome.

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