- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004

DES MOINES, Iowa — Howard Dean, feeling the hot breath of three rivals on his neck, yesterday sought help from his wife and former President Jimmy Carter as the Iowa campaign sped toward tonight’s caucuses, the first-in-the-nation test of Democratic presidential preferences.

A survey conducted for the Des Moines Register shows Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry leading the field with 26 percent, followed by North Carolina Sen. John Edwards with 23 percent, Mr. Dean with 20 percent and Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt with 18 percent.

The latest Zogby-Reuters-MSNBC poll, released yesterday, showed Mr. Kerry at 24 percent, Mr. Dean with 23 percent, Mr. Gephardt at 19 percent and Mr. Edwards at 18 percent.

Just a week ago, Mr. Edwards was at 14 percent and Mr. Kerry was at 15 percent in the Zogby survey.

Mr. Dean attended services yesterday at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., with Mr. Carter, who introduced Mr. Dean as “my friend and fellow Christian.” At a press conference, Mr. Carter said: “I’m not going to endorse any particular candidate, but I have been particularly grateful at the courageous and outspoken posture Governor Dean has taken from the very beginning.”

Mr. Dean yesterday evening campaigned with his wife, Judy, at a rally in Davenport — the first time she has taken an active part in the nomination contest.

“For those who might be wondering, my name is Judy Dean,” said the former Vermont first lady, a physician who uses her maiden name, Judith Steinberg, in the joint practice she has with her husband.

Reading from prepared remarks, she thanked Iowa for being kind to her husband and explained why she has played no public role in the campaign until last night.

“We have a son in high school, a daughter in college, a medical practice in Vermont with patients who depend on me daily,” she said.

The late surges by Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kerry are even more impressive given who they are challenging — Mr. Gephardt, who won the caucuses here in 1988, and Mr. Dean, who has set records for campaign fund raising.

“It’s so exciting and energizing to see this kind of crowd the day before the caucuses. I’ve been seeing it every where I go,” Mr. Edwards told a rally of his supporters in Davenport.

Mr. Kerry traveled by helicopter, campaigning with Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

At one stop in Newton, Mr. Kerry was asked why voters should choose him over Mr. Edwards, and he said he alone could stand up to President Bush on foreign policy.

“When I came back from Vietnam in 1969, I don’t know if John Edwards was out of diapers then,” Mr. Kerry said of the North Carolina senator, who was born in 1953, 10 years after Mr. Kerry.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gephardt and nine current and former members of Congress supporting him — including Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island, Mr. Kennedy’s son — fanned out across Iowa.

At a morning rally in Des Moines, Mr. Gephardt held up a home plate from a baseball diamond in North Dakota, given to him by a union leader in that state.

“He handed it to me, and he said, ‘Congressman, I want you to take this home plate to the White House, because I never want you to forget what’s going on out here,’” Mr. Gephardt said. “I’m taking it to the Oval Office, and you’ll have a president who will never forget.”

Mr. Dean, who said he got his start in politics in 1980 because of Mr. Carter, said he was “very grateful for the moral model that Jimmy Carter provided for America when he was president of the United States.”

Some voters have said they will take a second look at Mr. Dean, thanks to Mr. Carter’s words. For example, about a third of the 20 Des Moines-area Democrats at a recent focus group conducted by Frank Luntz said Mr. Carter’s support would help Mr. Dean in their decision of whom to support.

About 125,000 Iowa Democrats are expected to venture out in 10-degree weather to one of the 1,993 caucus sites at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The voters will stand with others who support their candidate, and about 9 p.m., officials will begin reporting results.

One critical aspect to tonight’s vote is how many caucusgoers still are prepared to switch. The Register poll of 606 likely caucusgoers found that nearly half of them said they still might change to support a different candidate tonight.

And voters who had said they would support one candidate often have changed their mind in the past few days.

“Kerry’s picked up a lot from Dean [supporters], and Edwards has picked up a little from us. But Edwards also picks up a little from Kerry. We pick up from everybody else,” said Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy in a telephone conference call with reporters.

The organization battle pits Mr. Gephardt’s support from 21 labor unions against Mr. Dean’s army of young volunteers and support from several key unions; Mr. Kerry’s support from Iowa establishment Democrats like first lady Christie Vilsack; and Mr. Edwards’ upbeat message.

In addition to the top four candidates in Iowa, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and the Rev. Al Sharpton also are competing. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Wesley Clark, a former Army general, opted not to compete in the caucuses.

Whatever else comes out of Iowa, it appears that the Dean campaign’s hope for victory in a short primary season is unlikely.

“This nomination process is going to go on for a while, and it’s going to be hard-fought,” Mr. Murphy said. “There are going to be several candidates who are alive after the first states.”

• Michael Connor contributed to this report.

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