New Hampshire boosts Kerry

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- John Kerry overpowered Howard Dean to win New Hampshire's primary Tuesday, a second-straight campaign victory for the newly minted Democratic presidential front-runner.

"I ask Democrats everywhere to join us so we can defeat George W. Bush and the economy of privilege," Kerry told supporters cheered by his political revival. He promised to "reduce the poverty of millions rather than reducing the taxes of millionaires."

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark battled for third, but far behind the two leaders. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, sagging to fifth place, rejected advice from some advisers to abandon his bid.

After trooping through coffee shops, country stores and living rooms of Iowa and New Hampshire, the candidates now move to the cold realities of a national campaign -- airport rallies and multimillion-dollar ad buys in seven states holding contests next Tuesday.

Kerry, who reshaped the race with his stunning win in Iowa's caucuses Jan. 19, pledged to carry his momentum to every state. He assumes the weighty mantle of front-runner, a title that drew scrutiny to Dean's record and every lapse.

"He hasn't been in that position," Dean said of Kerry. "We'll find out what happens."

Kerry said he can handle it.

"I've been in public life for a long time, and I have been in tough races before and have been scrutinized," he said. "I'm ready to lead our party to victory."

With 95 percent of the precincts reporting, Kerry had 39 percent, Dean had 26 percent, Clark 13 percent, Edwards 12 percent and Lieberman 9 percent.

An Associated Press analysis of the delegate count showed Kerry winning 13 delegates and Dean capturing nine, while Edwards and Clark appeared to finish below the 15 percent vote threshold needed to win any delegates.

It has been a topsy-turvy Democratic race, with Dean leading New Hampshire polls by 25 percentage points when the year began, Kerry seizing a similar lead after Iowa and Dean gaining a bit of ground after an 11th-hour political overhaul.

"We were written off for months, and plugged on and showed people the determination we have to defeat President Bush," Kerry said.

Dean, the former five-term governor of Vermont who finished third in Iowa, lost New Hampshire by double digits -- less than he needed for a complete rebound or to erase doubts about his viability.

He did manage about twice as many votes as either Edwards or Clark, and found solace in gaining a bit of ground since his disastrous Iowa finish and shrill election-night address.

Dean kept his emotions in check Tuesday night, telling supporters, "The people of New Hampshire have allowed all of you to hope again."

Edwards, who finished a surprise second in Iowa, said his double-digit finish is an improvement over his standing in polls before Iowa. He's staking his candidacy on South Carolina, a centerpiece of next week's contests.

"Beyond South Carolina, I don't want to make any predictions," he said.

Clark said: "We came into New Hampshire as one of the Elite Eight. We leave tonight as one of the Final Four."

Ignoring his fifth-place showing, Lieberman declared, "We're in a three-way split decision" and pointed his ragged campaign toward South Carolina, Delaware and Oklahoma.

Kerry's victory ensures him money and momentum headed into next Tuesday's contests.

Dean insisted he will "play to win in every single state," overruling aides who urged a more cautious approach. The former Vermont governor plans to compete in South Carolina, Missouri, New Mexico and Arizona, which holds contests next Tuesday; Michigan and Washington state four days later; and Wisconsin, with its contest Feb. 17.

Also holding contests next Tuesday will be Delaware, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Several Dean advisers had urged him to pick fewer targets, cherrypicking states to conserve resources, but he vetoed the strategy, insisting that his campaign was muscular enough to compete nationally.

Dean acknowledged that advisers urged him to skip South Carolina. "There was some discussion about it," he said. "I never gave it any thought."

Dean had raised more than $200,000 in the 24 hours before the primary, but he has been spending money just as fast as raising it -- and he will keep up the pricey pace with his new strategy.

His eye warily cast toward the fall, Bush planned a trip to New Hampshire to counter criticism heaped his way during the Democratic race. He used a similar tactic after Iowa's caucuses, scheduling his State of the Union address one day after that contest.

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