- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2003

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination were highlighting their differences and raising money yesterday, with the high-flying Howard Dean getting much of the fire and complaining of “gang tackling.”

Six of the nine candidates headed to the Iowa Democratic Party’s biggest annual fund-raising dinner, moderated by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. They were making their case to more than 7,500 activists in a state where precinct caucuses begin the presidential nominating season.

Throughout the day, the politicians attended rallies, gave speeches and paraded through the streets. It was part political drama, part theater.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry took to the ice for a hockey game with firefighters, declaring he was “fighting straight ahead right at it.”

“What’s at stake in this race is leadership, someone who can beat George Bush,” Mr. Kerry said.

Mr. Dean said he neveranticipated the surge that sent him to the top tier of the Democratic field.

“I never expected to be in this position when I entered this campaign,” the former Vermont governor said. “I thought I’d be trying to come from behind in Iowa and New Hampshire.”

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards warned Democrats against becoming a party of anger, a trait often associated with Mr. Dean.

“If all we are in 2004 is a party of anger, we can’t win,” Mr. Edwards said in prepared remarks. “I’m the only person up here who hasn’t spent most of his adult life in politics.”

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri said he was focusing on his “big, bold ideas” and worked to shore up his backing with organized labor, staging a rally with five international union presidents at his side.

“I have differences with some of the other candidates on trade, on health care and on Medicare, and I have talked about some of those in the past,” Mr. Gephardt said. “Tonight, I am going to stay to the themes that I have been on, that I can beat George Bush, why he must be replaced and the big ideas I have.”

Several candidates previewed their message before rural advocates.

“My nomination will mean a whole new direction for this party,” said Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois said: “As we address the problems of rural America, we will address the problems of our country.”

Backers rallied outside the cavernous hall where the dinner was held, waving signs urging Mrs. Clinton to join the race and declaring that she is by far the best chance the party has to oust the Republican president.

The former first lady has said repeatedly that she has no plans to run in 2004 and will back the Democratic nominee. That, however, has done little to quiet the speculation of her supporters.

Most polls have found Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Dean bunched together and ahead of their rivals in the fight for Iowa’s leadoff caucuses, with Mr. Dean holding a double-digit poll lead in New Hampshire.

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