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Decision Day In New Hampshire

Polls say Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is front runner in today's New Hampshire presidential primary, but retired Gen. Wesley Clark is tops among the 31 ballots cast in the tiny towns of Dixville Notch and Hart's Location, where midnight voting is the tradition.

It's not like anywhere else in the nation - not really: in Dixville Notch, each of the 23 registered voters has his or her own voting booth, an extravagance the town doesn't mind as it hangs onto its status, for 40 years, of being first in the nation to report primary results.

Clark was the only one of the major candidates to visit Dixville Notch and Hart's Location - both known for their own take on things.

"Dixville always votes right," said one voter, Steve Barba, in an interview with CBS News Correspondent Drew Levinson, "but rarely does the country agree with us."

The results from both towns, early today: 14 votes for Clark, 8 for John Kerry, 4 for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, 4 for North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and one for Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Statewide, the stakes are high as Democrats go to the polls today in New Hampshire, with last minute polls showing Kerry hanging onto a comfortable lead over former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, followed by Clark, Edwards and Lieberman in a statistical tie for third place.

Kerry, Dean and Edwards all drew enthusiastic supporters at various rallies Monday, hammering home campaign themes they hoped would capture the votes of the highly prized undecided.

"I think people in New Hampshire know me pretty well," Dean told CBS' Early Show. "I governed next door 11 years. I balanced budgets, delivered healthcare to everybody over 18. That is going to weigh on people's minds."

At a rally in Portsmouth, Kerry insisted he is "the only candidate running" who has a consistent record of fighting for the nation's values on foreign policy and domestic issues.

"I believe that in the White House I will be able to represent the real interests and concerns of working people who, frankly, are getting hurt by this administration," Kerry told The Early Show.

Edwards, also campaigning in Portsmouth, rhetorically asked whether someone with a long record in Washington is the best candidate to bring change to the nation.

At stops in Nashua and Manchester, Dean claimed that the race is closing very fast, although it's not yet a dead heat.

"All through the summer, we had the supposed luxury of being the front-runner, which cost us dearly," Dean told CBS News. "But Iowans decided I wasn't the front-runner, and I think that's fine.

"It's more fun to run from where I am."

Clark was touring the Granite State by bus, stopping along the way to shake hands and point to his military record as an Army general and NATO commander. Clark insists that he's the only one in the race who's "done serious foreign policy."

Clark's decision to skip Iowa makes New Hampshire the first test of his message, which, as he tells CBS News Anchor Dan Rather, is "that we can bring a higher standard of leadership to America.

"The country's headed in the wrong direction. We have got a president who doesn't have vision."

Lieberman also has been greeting voters, continuing to say he senses a "Joe-mentum" going his way.

The polls, though, continued to suggest that the momentum was going Kerry's way. Several surveys released Monday showed Kerry leading Dean by between 11 and 21 points.

Kerry's rivals can read polls, too - and tell time. With the clock ticking, Dean is now attacking Kerry by name, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod.

On Monday, Dean questioned Kerry's judgment in voting against the Persian Gulf War in 1991 while supporting the 2002 resolution to invade Iraq.

"I think it should be the other way around," Dean said Monday. "Where was John Kerry when George Bush was giving out all this misinformation?"

Dean also complained that his campaign had been the target of dirty political tricks, including phone calls, e-mails and faxes that he said distorted his views.

Kerry, meanwhile, dismissed worries that he is vulnerable to being labeled just another liberal by President Bush and other Republicans if he were the party's nominee.

"If the worst they can say about me is that I'm a liberal or something, bring it on," he said. "I'll take that anywhere in the country."

Edwards, who finished second to Kerry in last week's Iowa caucuses and promised to wage a positive campaign, said Kerry has not been clear on the war.

"I think he's said some different things at different points in time," the North Carolina senator said as the candidates made the rounds of Sunday's television news shows. "So I think there's been some inconsistency."

Lieberman acknowledged Monday that he needs to do better than expected among New Hampshire voters, but the Connecticut senator predicted his campaign would begin here rather than end.

"This is a very fluid situation. A lot of voters remain undecided," Lieberman said.

New Hampshire is known for promoting underdogs and surprises. Most pollsters did not predict Pat Buchanan's 1996 win, John McCain's big upset in the last Republican primary, or the slimmer-than-expected win for Al Gore in the last Democratic primary.

Polls released Monday showed 4 percent to 18 percent of New Hampshire voters were still undecided, with many more willing to reconsider their early picks. In a state where there are more registered independents than either Democrats or Republicans - and independents can vote in the primary - who they break for could end up deciding the contest and determining who heads to the next round of primaries and who heads home.

A victory would propel Kerry to the Feb. 3 primary states with momentum and money. Dean needs a surprise victory or close second to regain his footing after Iowa. The rest of the field hopes to exceed their modest expectations, then score their first victories Feb. 3.

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