Most commentators say hope is fading for John Kerry's rivals
Last Updated: Sunday, 8 February, 2004, 22:36 GMT
With John Kerry's decisive victories in caucuses in Michigan and Washington on Saturday, US political commentators now see John Kerry as the almost certain Democratic challenger to George W Bush.
Commentators in the press and on the round of Sunday morning political programmes in the US have already begun to look to how John Kerry would fare against President Bush who has recently shown signs of weakness.
Most pundits agree that Mr Kerry has benefited from the excitement generated by primaries and the bounce may not last.
But commentators, even conservative ones, also said that Mr Bush needs to sharpen his game or risk losing the White House.
"The result has left little doubt of Mr Kerry's command of the Democratic field," according to Adam Nagourney in the New York Times.
This sentiment is echoed by Dan Balz in the Washington Post.
"Kerry continues to ride a wave of support that threatens to turn the Democratic race into a romp."
"His rivals are rapidly running out of opportunities to stop him," Balz continued. I don't think John Edwards is within shouting distance of John Kerry
Juan Williams of National Public Radio
But John Kerry's major competitor, John Edwards, continues to campaign, making the rounds on the Sunday political programmes saying that, despite persistent rumours in the press, he is running for president not vice-president.
Both Mr Edwards and Wesley Clark say they have no plans to leave the race.
But few commentators saw much chance of Mr Edwards or any other candidate stopping John Kerry's momentum.
"The two southern primaries this Tuesday may be the last best chance for John Edwards," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said.
And Juan Williams of National Public Radio said on FoxNews Sunday: "I don't think (John Edwards) is within shouting distance of John Kerry."
Commentators continued to chart the political collapse Howard Dean, after a major union withdrew its endorsement of the once high-flying insurgent.
"Reporters covering the [Dean] campaign say that it is like a death watch," said Mr Williams.
"Dean's national free fall after the losses in Iowa and New Hampshire was mirrored in Michigan," wrote Charlie Cain in the Seattle Times.
President's problems and power
Until recently, the Bush re-election campaign had assumed that they would be facing Howard Dean in the general elections, said Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard on FoxNews.
What really will make a difference is when the Bush campaign unleashes the dogs of war and really starts hitting Kerry
Mara Liasson on FoxNews Sunday
Strategists in the White House thought that they could easily marginalise Howard Dean, Mr Kristol said.
And they also thought that Democrats would bloody themselves in a long self-destructive primary process, he added.
Neither has happened, and the Bush-Cheney 2004 team is scrambling to readjust to the new realities as well as approval numbers that have dipped below 50%.
Recent polls show John Kerry either beating or in a statistical tie with President Bush.
Some commentators wondered if John Kerry's roll to victory would come too early, leaving George Bush's well funded re-election bid a long opening before the summer political conventions to attack Mr Kerry.
"What really will make a difference is when the Bush re-election campaign unleashes the dogs of war so to speak and really starts hitting Kerry," said Mara Liasson of National Public Radio on FoxNews Sunday.