Democratic presidential hopefuls on Wednesday were scouring New Hampshire for votes and scorching their would-be rival, President Bush, for a State of the Union speech they claim ignored tough issues facing Americans.
With Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary approaching, John Kerry and John Edwards tried to capitalize on their surprising success in Iowa, as Howard Dean tried to shake off his disappointing third-place finish there. Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark, who skipped Iowa to campaign in the Granite State, were also on the move.
Polls suggest that Kerry, the Massachusetts senator, was enjoying a major bounce from Iowa.
A WBZ/Boston Herald poll of 400 people showed Dean holding onto a shrinking lead of 28 percent in the state. Clark had 21 percent, but Kerry drew close with 20 percent. Edwards trailed with 8 percent. The poll had a 5 percent margin of error.
Suffolk University's survey of 400 people found Dean with only a three-point, 23-20 lead over Kerry, within the 4.9 percent margin of error. Clark was in third with 15 percent. Edwards and Lieberman were both the choice of 6 percent.
In both polls, however, a substantial number of respondents were undecided. More than a quarter of voters were uncommitted in the Suffolk U. survey.
Kerry and Edwards also got a boost in their fundraising after Iowa. Kerry challenged donors to help him raise $365,000 over the Internet on Tuesday — marking the 365 days left before the 2005 inauguration — and collected roughly $300,000 by late afternoon. CBS News Reporter Alison Schwartz says Edwards' campaign took in $100,000 in online contributions during a five-hour period after the Iowa results were announced.
For others, Iowa was cause for reflection rather than celebration. Organized labor, for example, is taking a hard look at its political influence and voter turnout operations after the two union-backed candidates — Dean and Dick Gephardt, who has now dropped out — that were to dominate the caucuses sank instead.
But the president's prime-time address made him the main target for the candidates, who for weeks battered each other in Iowa. Democrats used the occasion to tout their own proposals and question whether the president could be trusted on the war on terrorism and home front economic issues.
"I don't agree with his premise that the war in Iraq was part of the war on terror," Clark told NBC. "We really don't know why we went to war with Saddam Hussein. … Why send people to attack a country when it didn't pose an imminent threat to the United States and wasn't associated with those who did the damage on 9-11?"
Mr. Bush told the nation Tuesday night that the war on terrorism was not over. Clark commented, "It might have been if he'd stayed in Afghanistan instead of taking us into Iraq to go after Saddam Hussein."
Kerry, who watched the speech in the home of supporters in New Hampshire, said Mr. Bush failed to deliver on a promise to create 250,000 jobs last month when only 1,000 new jobs were recorded. "Americans should be able to trust that what the president tells them is true," he said.
"After four years in office, this president still doesn't understand what's happening in living rooms across this country," Kerry said.
Edwards said the president had no policies for ending the divide separating Americans on taxes, health care and education.
"What this president fails to understand is that we still live in two different Americas: one for the privileged few, and another for everybody else," Edwards said, repeating his campaign theme. "Instead of proposing ideas that would help heal our great divides, he is dividing us even further and believes that compassionate language and empty slogans will make working Americans forget the burdens they face every day."
Dean said the address made the case for the president's defeat in November.
"President Bush offered a stale agenda that aids the special interests and does very little for working Americans," Dean said. "The president's speech underscored the need for replacing him with a proven, experienced leader, one who has balanced budgets and made tough decisions, and who stands up for the truth and what is right."
Charging that Bush lived in "a state of denial," Lieberman said Mr. Bush proposed more tax cuts for those who don't need them and lacked a program to create good jobs.
"Right on schedule, George W. Bush is trying to camouflage his irresponsible, divisive, right-wing agenda and repackage himself as a centrist compassionate conservative around election time. But no amount of election year conversions, extraplanetary travel, or hollow gestures can cover up this president's leadership failures and his extreme politics," Lieberman said.
In what he dubbed his own "state of the nation" speech, candidate Dennis Kucinich — trailing the other four badly 3 said Mr. Bush's tax cuts combined with the Iraq war have weakened the middle class. The administration "has spent $155 billion for an unnecessary war driven by fear," Kucinich said.