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Candidates Debate in Countdown to Super Tuesday
By Michael Lee, 12, New York
Scholastic Student Reporter

Democratic presidential hopefuls (from left) John Kerry, Al Sharpton, John Edwards, and Dennis Kucinich participate in a debate on Sunday, February 29, 2004 in New York. (© Mary Altaffer/AP Wide World)
Sunday, February 29—Just two days before the nation's biggest primary elections on Super Tuesday, four Democratic presidential hopefuls debated one last time today. Senators John Edwards and John Kerry, Representative Dennis Kucinich, and the Rev. Al Sharpton were greeted at the debate with news that John Bertrand Aristede, the President of Haiti, had fled the country just hours before.

"This is a country that's extraordinarily unstable," said Edwards. "I think this is the 33rd government that they've had. It is one of the poorest nations, if not the poorest nation, in the world."

Edwards and Kerry agreed that the U.S. and the United Nations should send in a peacekeeping force. Sharpton is traveling to Haiti on Wednesday to help negotiate a peaceful transition of power.

"I've been to Haiti several times, and I think that I'm speaking as one who has been close to this situation more than anyone on this stage," Sharpton said. "What we need to do, first of all, is allow Haiti to have the resources it needs. The World Bank had approved a $500 million loan that this country has blocked."

The candidates were arranged informally around a table with CBS News anchor Dan Rather, New York Times White House correspondent Elizabeth Bumiller, and CBS political reporter Andrew Kirtzman. The debate was held at the CBS News studios in New York City without an audience.

Other issues discussed were trade agreements, Iraq, Israel, North Korea, family values, and terrorism.

The candidates disagreed over many issues and were often argumentative. The atmosphere was intense and combative, with the candidates working to impress Super Tuesday voters. More than 1,000 delegates are up for grabs in 10 states on March 2. Primaries will be held in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Caucuses will be held in Minnesota. With this many states on the line, the race could essentially be over when the results come in late Tuesday night.