Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. portrayed his second-place finish in the Michigan primary Tuesday as a victory, asserting that the race for the Democratic presidential nomination was evolving into a contest between himself and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.
The former California governor acknowledged, however, that Clinton--with whom he recently engaged in the campaign's angriest fight so far--fared well in the industrial battlegrounds of Michigan and Illinois.
"Bill Clinton has an enormous machine. I'd say ours takes longer," Brown said before an evening rally at a labor hall in this state capital and university town. "But the race is turning into a two-man race and will now give a chance for Americans to make a choice--a real choice."
Brown had turned Michigan into a test case for his insurgent strategy to court the votes of students, environmentalists, the poor and the economically insecure by denouncing the political status quo. In particular, he had sought the aid of organized labor, assailing the White House and his Democratic rivals for supporting free trade with Mexico at the cost of American factory jobs.
Meeting with reporters late Tuesday, Brown tried to put the best light on his low finish in Illinois, a state where he spent less than two days. "It's quite extraordinary, since we were never there," he said of his Illinois total.
After several days of intense campaigning in Michigan's union halls, at factory shift changes, rallies and other events, Brown chose to spend the election day getting a jump on his competitors in the April 7 Wisconsin primary. He rarely mentioned the trade issue--a centerpiece of his Michigan effort--and instead focused on Wisconsin's reform-minded traditions and support of the environmental issues that Brown highlights in his campaign.
Inside the ornate chamber of Wisconsin's state assembly, he maintained that his own campaign was rooted in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, which spoke of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. "If I said that, they might have said it sounds pretty flaky--it sounds like kind of a moonbeam idea," Brown joked.