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Dean Grabs Huge Lead In N.H.

Howard Dean has opened a daunting lead in the Democratic presidential contest in New Hampshire, says a poll released Wednesday night.

Dean was at 42 percent, 30 points ahead of his closest rival, John Kerry, in the Zogby poll of voters who say they're likely to vote in the Jan. 27 primary. One in five, 19 percent, were undecided.

Separately, the Washington Post reports that the former Vermont governor is moving to solidify his standing at the top of the presidential pack by courting establishment Democrats.

The newspaper said Dean, who has run as an outsider, is now cultivating the Washington insiders who can deliver the money and organizational support he will need to effectively challenge President Bush. His targets include:

  • Key House members, especially black and Hispanic lawmakers who might strengthen his appeal in the South.
  • Democratic Party officials at the national level.
  • Lobbyists. The Post reports that Dean advisers meet weekly with about 30 Washington insiders, many of them lobbyists, to discuss strategy.

    Dean's strategy runs the risk of alienating supporters who view the Washington establishment with suspicion.

    There's a danger some will call it hypocritical . . . or some of his original Internet warriors won't understand he needs to consort with those they feel are the enemy," Democratic strategist Jenny Backus told the Post.

    The latest poll numbers from New Hampshire seem likely to strengthen Dean's position with Democratic powerbrokers.

    Kerry, a Massachusetts senator who led in the state early this year, was at 12 percent; retired Gen. Wesley Clark was at 9 percent and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman was at 7 percent.

    Others were in the low single digits. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was at 4 percent, Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt was at 3 percent, and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich was at 2 percent. Others had less than 1 percent.

    Pollster John Zogby said Dean is strong in all regions and among all voter groups.

    The poll of 503 Democratic and independent voters was taken Dec. 1-3 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

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