- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The battle for third place in the New Hampshire Democratic primary was much closer than the two-man race for victory, but the failure of Sen. John Edwards and Wesley Clark to garner any significant support imperils their prospects in the upcoming contests.

Mr. Edwards of North Carolina and Mr. Clark were fighting for the third spot last night, with each receiving about 13 percent of the vote. They were more than 20 points behind the first-place finisher, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and about 10 points behind the runner-up, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, according to early results.

The strategy of Mr. Clark, as well as Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, to skip the Iowa caucuses and concentrate on New Hampshire appears to have backfired, said Democratic consultant Bob Mulholland.

“It’s tough to compete with the headlines out of Iowa, which Edwards, Dean and Kerry got,” Mr. Mulholland said. “They have a lot of impact. Things move by those headlines.”

Mr. Clark’s campaign collapsed in the week between the Iowa caucuses and the primary yesterday. Once polling solidly in second place with about 20 percent, his numbers plummeted after Mr. Kerry’s victory in Iowa and Mr. Edwards’ surprising second-place showing over the well-financed Mr. Dean.

Mr. Edwards and Mr. Clark, however, quickly could turn around their poor showing in New Hampshire. Five primaries and two caucuses will be held on Feb. 3, and both men can claim leads in polls conducted in at least one of those states.

A third-place finish is better for Mr. Edwards than Mr. Clark, said Democratic consultant Joe Cerrell, because the expectations for the Southern one-term senator had been so low in New Hampshire.

“I think this is two wins in a row” for Mr. Edwards, Mr. Cerrell said. “If Clark doesn’t make third, I don’t see how he stays in. This was his excuse for not going to Iowa.”

The nomination fight could stretch out for weeks because Democratic primaries dole out delegates based on the percentage of the vote, rather than winner takes all, making it harder for the winners of Iowa and New Hampshire to pull away.

Mr. Lieberman, who optimistically had declared that he had “Joe-mentum” in the waning days of the campaign, was stuck in fifth place last night, with single-digit support that many supporters predicted would end his bid to parlay his vice presidential nomination in 2000 to the top of the ticket in 2004.

“Tonight is another step in the winnowing process,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe told the Associated Press. He has said no candidate can survive without a victory in Iowa, New Hampshire or one of seven states holding contests Feb. 3.

Mr. Mulholland said he is “a big admirer of Lieberman” but wasn’t surprised that his campaign withered despite his presence on the 2000 presidential team.

“Campaigns are about campaigns, not about what happened before,” Mr. Mulholland said. “Since Lieberman didn’t go to Iowa and didn’t win place or show, even the people who liked him as their first choice went to their second choice.”

As the polls closed, Mr. Lieberman vowed to fight on. He had spent $1.1 million on advertising in the final week in New Hampshire and could brag of the endorsement of the state’s four largest newspapers — to no avail.

Mr. Edwards leads in the latest American Research Group poll, released last week, that puts him in first place in his birthplace of South Carolina, with 21 percent to Mr. Kerry’s 17 percent.

Mr. Clark, an Arkansas native, leads in a poll of Oklahoma with 23 percent. The poll, released Monday, was conducted by the same firm. Mr. Edwards was second with 18 percent and Mr. Kerry third at 17 percent. Mr. Clark also is near the top in the latest polls conducted in New Mexico and Arizona.

The other Feb. 3 contests — in which 269 delegates are at stake, or 12 percent of the 2,162 needed to snare the nomination — are in Missouri, Delaware and North Dakota.


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