- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

From combined dispatches

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Fresh from an upset victory in the first test of the Democratic presidential campaign, Sen. John Kerry barreled into New Hampshire yesterday and promptly proclaimed himself the underdog in next week’s first-in-the-nation primary.

Still, Mr. Kerry said fellow New Englander Howard Dean can be beaten in the state, despite leading in the polls. “Well, obviously, we proved that in Iowa,” said the senator from Massachusetts.

Across town, Mr. Dean toned down his “red meat” rhetoric, hoping to offset a stunning loss in Monday’s Iowa caucuses with a more subdued campaign here in his bid to challenge President Bush in November’s election.

“Today, I am going to give a different kind of speech,” Mr. Dean told supporters. “Those of you who came here intending to be lifted by … a lot of red-meat rhetoric are going to be a little disappointed.”

Mr. Dean barely raised his voice as he attacked Mr. Bush for going to war with Iraq, accusing him of losing 3 million jobs, failing to provide health insurance to all Americans and running up huge deficits.

Iowans apparently rejected the hard-edged anti-Iraq war rhetoric and anti-establishment message of the one-time front-runner Mr. Dean, who finished a distant third, in favor of two Washington insiders, first-place finisher Mr. Kerry and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Surveys showed voters were more concerned with jobs and health care than the Iraq war.

In the first blush after Iowa’s caucuses, the candidates avoided going after each other by name — although that could change on a dime as they pursue Tuesday’s primary and a seven-state contest, including the candidates’ first test in the South in South Carolina, seven days later.

Instead, they gingerly shadowboxed.

Mr. Kerry, a four-term senator, talked up his service and said he would draw that distinction against his rivals, including political newcomer Wesley Clark and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, both of whom skipped the caucuses.

“I also have the experience to make America safer and stronger in the world during a very dangerous time, and I think people want a steady, tested hand at the helm of state,” Mr. Kerry said. “I can provide that.”

Countered Mr. Edwards: “We need a leader who hasn’t spent their whole life in politics, a leader who knows what it’s like out here in the real world.”

Iowa propelled Mr. Edwards from a nearly second-tier candidate to a strong second-place finisher, and he was pumped.

“It’s a huge boost,” he said. “It’s like a fire spreading over Iowa over the last two weeks, and to finish the way we did was extraordinary.”

Mr. Edwards has lagged in New Hampshire polls and planned to split his time between that state and others holding early contests, including South Carolina, where he was born. He added a campaign stop in South Carolina yesterday, but his strong showing in the Iowa caucuses has encouraged him to compete seriously in New Hampshire as well.

Mr. Dean remains the front-runner in New Hampshire but has fallen back closer to his pursuers with polls showing Mr. Kerry gaining ground here.

A daily survey, taken by Suffolk University for Boston television station WHDH, showed Mr. Dean yesterday with 23 percent and Mr. Kerry with 20 percent, their standings within the margin of error. That marked a change from Monday, when the survey results gave Mr. Dean 25 percent, with Mr. Kerry and Mr. Clark tied at 19 percent. Mr. Clark fell to 15 percent in the latest poll. Mr. Edwards is in the single digits.

In St. Louis yesterday, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, the former House Democratic leader and 14-term congressman, said he was abandoning his second bid for the presidency after a poor fourth-place showing in Iowa. He did not endorse a candidate.

Mr. Clark, a retired Army general, immediately reached out to some of Mr. Gephardt’s congressional backers, who would add Washington stature to a candidate who has never held elected office and would provide all-important delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

“General Clark called me this morning. I was very impressed with his campaign. I had a nice discussion with him and told him I’d like to talk to him at some future time,” Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democratic leader in the House, told reporters in Washington.

Arriving in New Hampshire at sunrise for an appearance at an airport hangar timed for morning television, Mr. Kerry repeatedly described himself as a fighter, ready to do battle against Mr. Bush and the special interests.

“I am running because I, like many Americans, don’t think it’s right that George Bush places his buddies as the first priority of America. I am running for president to put New Hampshire and its citizens first, and that’s what we need to do,” he said.

Mr. Dean, whose use of the Internet to raise $40 million and attract new supporters helped propel him to the top of the polls late last year, said he had been a “pincushion” for his rivals and reporters because of his front-runner status.

“I used to be the front-runner when I went out to Iowa, but I’m not the front-runner anymore,” Mr. Dean said in Portsmouth, N.H., after making the traditional overnight flight from Iowa to New Hampshire. “But New Hampshire has a great tradition of supporting the underdog. So guess what? Let’s go get them.”

He cited as examples Bill Clinton, who won the presidency after losing Iowa, and Michael Dukakis, who also lost in the Midwestern state but went on to become the Democratic nominee.

“You get three tickets out of Iowa,” said Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi. “We got one of them. It’s not the one I would have wanted, but I’ll take it.”

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