Steve Murphy, who managed Dick Gephardt's presidential campaign before the Missouri congressman dropped out, said Edwards had no chance.
"This is going to be a false euphoria for Edwards," Murphy said. "Democrats don't want this process unnecessarily prolonged."
But Mandy Grunwald, who advised Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in his now-defunct White House bid, said Edwards was entitled to keep going.
"He's a very talented guy," Grunwald said. "He does give a great stump speech, and his message is strong."
The Edwards campaign was elated at the prospect of taking on Kerry without the distractions of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who seems likely to drop out soon, and retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark of Arkansas, who exited the race last week.
At 5 p.m., Elizabeth Edwards buttonholed a reporter in the lobby of the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee as exit polls showed her husband closing fast on Kerry.
"The more they see John, the more they like him," she said. "This has happened in every single state."
Some voters who didn't choose Edwards said they were still impressed by him.
Marsha Sehler, 61, of Milwaukee, said she voted for Kerry after seeing the two candidates speak at a weekend event. But she rhapsodized about Edwards as a political natural.
"He connects beautifully," Sehler said. "He's great, just great, easy to understand. He has an easy connection to an audience. That smile just wins my heart. He's very compelling. That smile!"