- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry yesterday surged past front-runner Howard Dean in one primary poll here, receiving the anticipated bounce from his come-from-behind Iowa caucuses victory.

In about a week’s time, support for Mr. Kerry rose to 27 percent, from 12 percent, as support for Mr. Dean dropped to 24 percent, from 32 percent, in a poll conducted by the Boston Globe and released yesterday. Support for Wesley Clark also dropped from 23 percent to 17 percent.

“Dean keeps sinking and Kerry keeps rising,” said Andrew Smith, who conducts polling for the University of New Hampshire.

Several other polls tracking the Democratic presidential aspirants have Mr. Dean, from neighboring Vermont, still in the lead but with Mr. Kerry, from neighboring Massachusetts, quickly closing the gap with Tuesday’s primary less than a week away.

The movement in the polls is similar to what happened a week prior to last Monday’s caucuses when the significant polling lead Mr. Dean had created in Iowa dramatically started to deflate as Mr. Kerry’s began to rise.

Yesterday in Nashua, N.H., Mr. Kerry, whose campaign had already taken in half the $1 million he had appealed to supporters for following Monday’s victory, looked past his Democratic rivals and took on President Bush directly.

“We are facing a health care crisis in this country and last night the president offered only sound bites and no solutions,” he said, referring to Mr. Bush’s State of the Union address.

“I’m running for president so you will have a president who’s on your side and who will take on the special interests that stand in your way.”

He said he favors allowing cheaper prescription drugs into the country from Canada and using the buying power of the federal government to drive down prices.

Prescription drugs can be 30 percent to 80 percent cheaper in Canada, the Kerry campaign said, but the federal government bans their import. Giant programs like Medicare — through which billions of dollars in drugs are purchased — could use their clout to negotiate lower prices, the campaign said.

In the speech, Mr. Kerry railed against Mr. Bush, mentioning his name 17 times. Never once did he mention one of his Democratic rivals.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dean’s camp called for lowering the limit of individual campaign contributions from $2,000 to $250, part of a new focus on policy ideas developed after his third-place finish in Iowa.

“One of the reasons they don’t stand up for what’s right is because they’re always looking at who contributed money to their campaign and figuring out whether they’re going to be angry or not,” Mr. Dean said during a speech at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters.

“So if we want people to stand up for what’s right, we have to have real campaign finance reform.”

Advisers to Mr. Dean said he would announce the proposal today before a candidate debate.

Mr. Dean, who opted out of the public financing system for the race, said special interests have bought both parties and that Washington lawmakers look after big donors instead of ordinary people. The average donation to Mr. Dean’s campaign is less than $100.

His argument is an echo of campaign finance maven Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who stunned George W. Bush by winning the New Hampshire primary in 2000 before bowing out of the presidential race.

Campaigning here and in South Carolina yesterday, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina ? who had a surprisingly good second-place finish in Iowa ? warned voters that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Dean could not be relied upon to win in Republican strongholds like the South.

“I know I can strengthen our position because I’ve won in a tough place, a really tough place,” he said, referring to his 1998 Senate race in which he unseated a Republican incumbent. Mr. Edwards remained in single digits in the Globe poll.

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Army general Wesley Clark of Arkansas continued their vigorous campaigning throughout New Hampshire. Both Democrats skipped the Iowa caucuses and are banking on big wins in New Hampshire to carry them South and into later primaries.

Mr. Clark, who has been bumped to third place from second place by Mr. Kerry in most polls, met with veterans yesterday.

Mr. Clark said he is the only Democratic candidate for president with the right mix of military, foreign policy and administrative skills, assuring fellow veterans: “I can walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”

“I’m a veteran, I’ve done leadership at the highest levels, I’ve worked with heads of state, I’m from the South, my mother was a secretary, and I can run well across this country ? and I can beat George W. Bush,” said Mr. Clark, who yesterday also received the endorsement of former New York Mayor David Dinkins.

Like everyone, Mr. Lieberman fine-tuned his stump speech yesterday to include a rebuttal to Mr. Bush’s Tuesday night address.

In a speech in Plaistow, N.H., he said Mr. Bush is “in a state of denial about the state of the union.”

“What happened to the compassion in George Bush’s conservatism?” asked Mr. Lieberman, who registers under 10 percent in the polls here.

“Given that disconnect, independent-minded people all over New Hampshire are going to be looking for a real leader who understands the challenges we face and has honest answers to our toughest problems. I am that candidate.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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