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Can anyone stop the Dean machine?

"Can anyone stop the Dean machine?" Continued...

Issue: "Earthquake in Bam," Jan. 10, 2004

Any candidate who fails to gain 15 percent of the vote in a precinct is declared not viable, and his supporters then have the opportunity to join another group. After 30 minutes of dealing and debating, the groups form again, resulting in a final tally for each candidate. (Sometimes the supporters of a nonviable candidate can't bring themselves to back anyone else on the ballot, resulting in a large number of votes for "undecided.")

The biggest loser is likely to be North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. He has spent heavily and campaigned actively in the state, yet never reached 10 percent in the polls. That means he'll fail to break the 15 percent barrier in many precincts, and his supporters will have to look elsewhere.

John Kerry, as the most moderate of the three major candidates, might be an attractive alternative, boosting his hopes for a second-place finish. Gephardt strategists, however, insist that their candidate is a comfortable fallback for Iowa voters who identify with his Midwestern persona. They believe they can pick up enough support among vote-switchers to pass the frontrunner and defy the pollsters; indeed, it's defy-or-die time.

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