SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- A buoyant Sen. Bob Kerrey headed south today to challenge Gov. Bill Clinton in Georgia, after his impressive victory in yesterday's South Dakota primary.
Mr. Kerrey of Nebraska, proclaiming he had "struck gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota," broke into the winner's circle for the first time this primary season by establishing his affinity with the dominant farm community here, as a concerted effort to do the same by another South Dakota neighbor, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, fell short.
With all 1,010 precincts reported, Mr. Kerrey had 40 percent of the total, Mr. Harkin 25 percent, Gov. Clinton of Alabama 19 percent, former Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts 10 percent and former Gov. Jerry Brown of California came in last with 4 percent.
Mr. Harkin, expressing satisfaction with his second-place finish, congratulated Mr. Kerrey but contended that the Nebraskan's victory meant only that the race "is more wide open than ever. There is no front-runner."
He said the campaign "has been sidetracked in these early contests by discussions about electability instead of a debate on the direction of our party, and our country, in the next decade."
In the Republican primary, President Bush ran unopposed, but with the same number of precincts in, 31 percent supported an uncommitted slate to 69 percent for Mr. Bush, an indication of GOP unrest with the incumbent, who lost the state's GOP primary in 1988 and won here in the general election by only 6 percent over Democrat Michael S. Dukakis.
Mr. Bush's challenger elsewhere, television commentator Patric J. Buchanan, failed to meet the state's filing deadline and lost a court appeal to be placed on the ballot.Last night's outcome suggested he may have missed an opportunity here to repeat his embarrassment of the president in the New Hampshire primary, where he won 37 percent of that vote.
Bill Shore, one of Mr. Kerrey's chief political aides, hailed the victory as a certification of his candidate's seriousness as the campaign moves "from winning symbolic victories to delegate collection."
From now on, the focus will be on picking up convention delegates -- a process Mr. Shore said will enable Mr. Kerrey to survive an expected surge by Mr. Clinton as the race moves to the South over the next two weeks.
Mr. Shore said the Kerrey campaign had to win South Dakota, but "will not lay down any other must-win state" until after Super Tuesday on March 10, when Mr. Clinton is expected to be dominant in his home region. He predicted that increasingly now, the Democratic contest will be perceived as a three-man race -- Mr. Clinton, Mr. Tsongas and Mr. Kerrey, with Mr. Harkin %J struggling to hang on.
Mr. Kerrey's superior organization and more moderate style appeared to best the flamboyant Mr. Harkin, an unapologetic liberal New Deal throwback, in what earlier had been expected to be a close fight between the two Midwesterners.
Mr. Kerrey immediately turned his sights on Georgia, where Mr. Clinton hopes to stake out his first claim as the South's favorite in one of seven state primaries or caucuses Tuesday.
Mr. Harkin, who was in Maryland yesterday to campaign for the March 3 primary, vowed to press on there and in Minnesota and Washington state, where he hopes liberal and labor support will yet bail him out in caucuses next week.
South Dakota results
. .. Democrats Kerrey: 23,974, 40 percent Harkin: 15,153, 25 percent Clinton: 11,421, 19 percent Tsongas: 5,756, 10 percent Brown: 2,304, 4 percent .. .. Republicans Bush: 30,948 votes, 69 percent Uncommitted: 13,716, 31 percent