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N.H.: A Race To Be Number Two?

John Kerry's broad-based lead in New Hampshire polls is increasing the focus on the battle for second-place in the state's presidential primary.

Kerry has support across most demographic groups to bolster his double-digit advantage in the days leading up to the Tuesday primary, according to polls released Saturday.

One-time leader Howard Dean, Wesley Clark and a slowly rising John Edwards are currently battling for second place.

A national Newsweek poll of Democratic voters released Saturday found Kerry out front at 30 percent, while Edwards, Dean and Clark were battling for second in the low teens.

Reflecting his improved standing in the polls, Kerry is tightly focusing his fire on Republicans, with only the most glancing of swipes at his Democratic rivals.

Those rivals, meanwhile, were scrambling to find ways to slow momentum that is reflected in the polling showing the Massachusetts senator building a significant lead in advance of Tuesday's party primary.

The latest Boston Globe/WBZ-TV tracking poll gave Kerry a commanding twenty-point lead over Dean.

Several other tracking polls found the New Hampshire race has settled a bit after Kerry opened a healthy lead over Dean in the days right after his Iowa caucus victory.
Four in 10 voters said they could still change their minds.

Dean sharply questioned Kerry's judgment on Iraq on Saturday as the candidates raced through a final, frozen weekend of campaigning before New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.

"I would be deeply concerned about that kind of judgment in the White House," said Dean, the one-time front-runner struggling to overcome a reversal that has vaulted Kerry into first place in the New Hampshire polls.

Dean said Kerry opposed the first Persian Gulf War in Iraq in 1991, and supported the 2003 invasion, views contrary to his own. "I think my position has proven to be right twice," Dean added.

In rebuttal, a spokeswoman for Kerry predicted the remarks would backfire. "When is Howard Dean going to realize that voters are tired of these same old angry attacks," said Stephanie Cutter. "Voters are looking for a steady hand, not a clenched fist."

The seven men seeking the nomination against President Bush engaged in the rituals of New Hampshire politics during the day.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark attended a pancake breakfast in the company of actor Ted Danson and actress Mary Steenburgen of "Friends" fame.

Kerry laced up his skates for a hockey game that drew Ray Bourque and other retired Boston Bruins stars back to the ice.
At the same time, though, the campaigns were maneuvering for advantage in the states that vote after New Hampshire, beginning with seven contests in all regions of the country on Feb. 3.

Thus, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who hopes for a breakthrough victory in South Carolina on that day, announced he would compete in Missouri. His campaign has hired two former aides to Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, who dropped out of the race on Tuesday.

"It's late, but it's late for everybody and this gives us a strong team to start with," said a spokeswoman, Jen Palmieri.

The state became competitive when Gephardt quit the race, and its 74 delegates make it the biggest prize of the night.

Kerry, who has benefited from a bounce in the polls since Monday's Iowa caucus victory, is expected to compete in all seven states - particularly so if he finishes strongly in New Hampshire and receives an influx of new campaign contributions.

He, too, was giving new attention to Missouri, and hired Steve Elmendorf, a top aide to Gephardt for a decade.

CBS News Correspondent Bob Schieffer observed that, "If Edwards could some how finish ahead of Wesley Clark (in New Hampshire), he'll have a tremendous boost going into South Carolina, where he's the favorite. Edwards is also putting new resources into Missouri, Dick Gephardt's home state, now that Dick Gephardt is out of the race.

"Don't forget, South Carolina is the first southern stop and nobody knows how New Englander Kerry will do there. If Edwards -- or Clark, for that matter --beats Kerry soundly in South Carolina, it may be awhile before we know who the nominee is going to be," Schieffer said.

Dean appears in poor position to absorb a strong setback along the lines of his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. He decided to spend about $500,000 in late television advertising in New Hampshire, leaving his campaign off the air, at least for the time being, in the Feb. 3 states.

"We can win this. What we are seeing in the last few days is that people who went away from us after we lost Iowa are coming back," the former Vermont governor exhorted his New Hampshire supporters during the day.

"There are a lot of people who are going from other candidates into the undecided column," Dean told a rally of volunteers in Somersworth, N.H.

Dean's campaign still insists it will turn out more voters than any other candidate Tuesday. But as one pollster told CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod, "True. But many of the voters will be voting for Kerry."

Correspondent Schieffer says, "Frankly, if Dean loses to Kerry here (in New Hampshire) as it now looks like he will, I think it will be extremely difficult for him to go on..If he can't beat Kerry in his own backyard, where is he going to beat him? If Dean loses here, I think he's done, and I think he knows it."

The polls suggested that Kerry was well ahead and that Dean possibly was still sliding in the wake of his Iowa defeat and a subsequent angry-looking appearance before supporters in the state.

His campaign struggled to rebound. It announced plans to distribute 50,000 copies of a recent ABC "Prime Time" interview granted by the former governor and his wife. The interview, which first aired on Thursday, showed a softer, more relaxed and likable side of Dean than was on display in the hours after his third-place finish in Iowa.

Still, Dean's decision to criticize Kerry marked a potentially risky shift in strategy. There has been little to none of the type of attacks that characterized the end of the Iowa campaign, and the caucus results rewarded Kerry and Edwards, who generally stayed above the fray.

In other comments with uncertain repercussions, Dean told reporters traveling with him that he had been hit by "under the table" campaigning in Iowa.

Dean said his rivals "had their folks really beating up on the people who went in, trying to get them to change their minds in caucus," and singled out a manual that the Edwards campaign had given to its precinct captains.

"I think Iowa is going to have to change the way it conducts its caucuses if it wants to continue to be first," Dean said.

Kerry during the day picked up the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental organization that had never before backed a candidate in the primary season.

"John Kerry understands that the American people need a president who will never roll over to corporate contributors at the expense of the health and safety of the public," said its leader, Deb Callahan.

At a rally Saturday morning, Kerry told the group he would put an end to the "false argument that America must choose between environmental efforts and the economy."

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