WASHINGTON, DCIn a surprising last-minute upset, all seven Democratic presidential hopefuls somehow lost the Democratic primaries Tuesday.
"While it's true that the Democratic Party has been struggling to find a strong voice, you can imagine our surprise when results indicated that John Kerry, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Joe Lieberman, and John Edwards all failed to carry a single primary," American Research Group political analyst Dick Bennett said late Tuesday. "Oh, and Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, too."
Primaries were held in Delaware, Missouri, Arizona, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, with no single Democratic candidate coming in higher than second place.
Experts are still unsure exactly how Kerry, whom many considered the frontrunner after strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, lost to, and along with, every other Democratic candidate.
"Given our standing going into Tuesday, we were surprised not to take at least one state," Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said. "But, in all honesty, we were a hell of a lot more baffled that none of the other Democratic candidates won, either."
Aggregate results from the five states, with all districts reporting, show Kerry leading the other candidates, but at a distant second.
"We're going to keep fighting," Kerry said. "I'm not going to throw in the towel just because I have no idea how it is even remotely possible for all of us to lose our own primary."
"I didn't give up in Vietnam, and I won't give up here," Kerry added.
Dean shared Kerry's mixture of confusion and resolve.
"I'd like to thank everyone who worked so hard on my campaign," Dean said. "I'll need your continued support as we go to Michigan, to Washington, to Maine... With your help, I know this campaign, or one of the Democratic campaigns, can take those primaries."
After polls closed Tuesday evening, Democratic Party officials were ready to concede defeat, but no one was sure to whom the concession call should be made.
"Well, we certainly can't blame this one on the Republicans," Democratic National Convention head Terry McAuliffe said. "I guess we have to blame the candidates? Organizers like myself? Negative campaigning? The media?"
McAuliffe said candidates will have to consider how it will look to Americans that Democrats lost in a voting situation where only Democrats were on the ballot.
"While we weren't sure who would win in November, our party really thought we had this one in the bag," McAuliffe said. "But we're not a group that puts its tail between its legs and runs. There's still time to get the message out there: Vote Democrat for Democrat."
Several pundits have already called the Democratic primary loss the worst defeat in the party's history. Appearing on CNN, political analyst Larry Sabato said the results indicate a "combination of voter cautionwith voters hesitant to cast votes when no one candidate stands outa;nd complete and utter mathematic improbability."
"The Democratic Party is in damage-control mode right now," Sabato said. "But remember, that's a mode they're familiar with. They're definitely on the home court here."
Sabato added: "Anyway, in a political era during which Bush can get into the White House with fewer votes than his opponent, even a loss of this magnitude doesn't mean the race is over."