- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2003

Former Gov. Howard Dean is riding a surge of strong antiwar support for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the latest polls show him running even in New Hampshire with his party's front-runner, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
Democratic strategists and pollsters say the Vermont liberal's swift rise in the polls in the nation's first presidential primary state is due entirely to his opposition to President Bush's war in Iraq.
"There is absolutely no question that the war is what's fueling his jump in the polls. Our polling not only shows very good numbers for him in New Hampshire, but also the potential to grow," said John Zogby, who is polling extensively in the early primary states.
"In addition to the candidate horse-race questions in Iowa and New Hampshire, we've matched nameless candidate positions on the issues and clearly what Democratic voters say they want is a candidate who is unequivocally against the war," Mr. Zogby said.
But in a telephone interview as he was driving to a campaign appearance in Iowa, Mr. Dean said, "I truly don't believe that my antiwar position is drawing people to me. I think that gets people's attention and I'd say that about 50 percent of the Democrats are against the war.
"But that's not what's fueling the candidacy. There are other candidates that are against the war. I think it allows people to give me a look that might not ordinarily look at me," the former Vermont governor said.
What Democrats like about him "was the willingness to be a Democrat again. They want you to stand up and be proud of what we Democrats have traditionally stood for, things like health insurance," he said.
Still, Mr. Dean has made his opposition to the war the centerpiece of his campaign. He has been aggressively attacking his nearest rivals in the race for supporting the president's war to topple Saddam Hussein from power.
Mr. Dean has said that the campaign in Iraq is "the wrong war at the wrong time." He said that he would not have voted for the war resolution in Congress that his rivals for the nomination helped to pass last year.
More recently, Mr. Dean has focused all of his attacks on Mr. Kerry, accusing the senator of straddling the issue of war in Iraq and deliberately trying to obscure his continued support for Mr. Bush's military policies.
"I think everybody has made themselves clear except John," Mr. Dean said at a campaign appearance in Iowa earlier this week. "Senator Kerry to this day continues to be ambivalent about his position."
Mr. Dean, who began his campaign more than a year ago, has made more than 40 trips into neighboring New Hampshire, running in part on his opposition to war with Iraq, his support for universal health insurance and calling for the repeal of Mr. Bush's tax cuts. He remained in the middle tier in the polls until last week when the U.S.-led war against Iraq began. That's when his poll numbers shot up by 6 points and moved him to within 1 point of Mr. Kerry, who leads with 23 percent.
Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri is in third place with 15 percent, followed by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut at 12 percent. The other candidates are in the low single digits, according to a survey of 600 registered Democratic voters by the American Research Group that was taken between March 16 and 19.
Mr. Dean has criticized not only Mr. Kerry, but also Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.
Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards were overheard recently on the Senate floor complaining about Mr. Dean's attacks and have been mounting a counterattack that is giving their little-known rival even more visibility in the crowded field of nine candidates.
"Senator Kerry has been clear and consistent on his policy on Iraq and many Democrats are disappointed Howard Dean has decided to put politics first and attack other candidates in a negative, divisive and personal way," Kerry spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday.
Mr. Dean refused to respond to Mr. Gibbs' criticism.
The biggest political hurdle that Mr. Dean will have to clear in the months ahead will be getting enough campaign contributions to compete with the heavy fund raising that Mr. Kerry's advisers say he has been drawing lately. Democratic fund-raisers say Mr. Kerry could easily raise the $40 million that it will take to finance a national campaign for the nomination.
Even so, Mr. Dean believes that an effective message and not money will be the critical factor in the 2004 primary contests.
"We're raising money and we'll raise a significant amount of money, about $10 million by the end of the year, but money can't buy exciting the Democratic base," he said.

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