Union Tribune

January 28, 2004

Kerry sails to N.H. win
Dean finishes a distant 2nd; Edwards, Clark fight for 3rd


NASHUA, N.H. John Kerry won a solid victory in the New Hampshire primary yesterday, taking the clear lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination and raising questions about whether Howard Dean can regain front-runner status.

"Thank you, New Hampshire, for lifting up this campaign and the cause of an America that belongs not to the privileged, not to the few, but to all of our people," the Massachusetts senator told his supporters last night.

His convincing 13-point victory over the former Vermont governor left much of the focus on the race for third place, which was a virtual dead heat between North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and former Gen. Wesley Clark even as the final votes were being counted.

Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman trailed, unable to break into double-digit support, and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich was far out of the running.

Dean, in a marked contrast to his arm-waving, boisterous speech to his supporters in Iowa after last week's loss, declared to his cheering supporters here last night, "We really are going to win this nomination, aren't we?"

Showing no sign of discouragement, Dean offered no congratulations to Kerry. Speaking in an intense but controlled tone, Dean reprised his criticism of Kerry and the other candidates for not fighting hard enough against President Bush's agenda.

"For those of you who think that America needs a president who is willing to stand up for what's right, not just what's popular, we are all together again stand together, all of us," he said.

Kerry kept his focus on Bush, promising supporters that he would "reduce the poverty of millions rather than reducing the taxes of millionaires."

For his part, Bush won with 85 percent in the Republican primary here. The rest of the vote was scattered among largely unknown candidates.

Addressing his supporters, Lieberman ignored speculation that a disappointing performance would force him to leave the race, expressing pleasure with his showing and vowing to fight on. At one point he said he was in "a three-way split decision for third place," even though the results clearly showed him in fifth.

"Today the people of New Hampshire put me in the ring, and that's where we are going to stay," Lieberman said.

Kerry, who also won in the Iowa caucuses, now takes his campaign into Tuesday's seven-state sweepstakes, where the main prizes are South Carolina, Missouri and Arizona.

Momentum will be his ally, but Kerry gets to face Edwards on the latter's home turf in South Carolina, Edwards' native state. The front-runner's first stop today will be in Missouri. Oklahoma, New Mexico, Delaware and North Dakota that also hold contests on that day.

Like Kerry, Edwards' position improved dramatically with his strong showing in Iowa, where he placed second. Last night, he noted that polls before the vote in New Hampshire showed him initially in single digits.

"It's important for me to show I can move up," Edwards said.

Clark also claimed momentum. "We came into New Hampshire as one of the Elite Eight. We leave tonight as one of the Final Four," he said.

At stake in the New Hampshire primary were 22 delegates, a tiny fraction of the 2,159 delegate votes needed to claim the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July. Next week's contests will award 269 delegates.

More than 208,000 voters cast ballots yesterday, shattering the record for Granite State Democratic primary elections set in 1992, when 168,000 people voted. A snowstorm held off until the polls closed and temperatures stayed above zero across most of the state, making the day temperate by New Hampshire standards.

This state's storied primary, the political incubator of the anti-Vietnam War movement in 1968 that doomed President Lyndon B. Johnson's hopes of another term in the White House, had to take a back seat this year to Iowa in winnowing the field.

The results of the Jan. 19 caucuses buried the candidacy of Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, who quit the race after coming in a disappointing fourth.

Iowa's Democrats also dealt a blow to the high-flying Dean, who entered the campaign as the front-runner but finished third.

Trailing Dean badly in the Granite State just weeks ago, Kerry had suspended his campaign here early this month to spend his time trying to resuscitate his candidacy with a strong showing in Iowa.

That successful roll of the dice allowed him to return to New Hampshire as the self-styled "Comeback Kerry." Almost overnight, the polls showed him vaulting back into the lead he had held early last year before Dean began his surge on the strength of his anti-Bush rhetoric and strong opposition to the war in Iraq.

A combination of factors seemed to beleaguer the Dean campaign in Iowa and here. His statements that Saddam Hussein's capture did not make the United States more secure and that Osama bin Laden deserved a fair trial earned him widespread criticism, while his defiant and exuberant concession speech in Iowa caused even supporters to question him.

While Kerry focused all his attention on Iowa, Clark and Lieberman bypassed the caucuses to concentrate on New Hampshire.

The issue of electability became the focus after Iowa. Each candidate sought to convince voters, including political independents who can vote in the state's partisan primary elections, that he posed the most significant threat to Bush's re-election.

Kerry pointed to his background as a decorated Vietnam veteran as evidence that he could go "toe to toe" with Bush on national security issues.

Appealing to the longtime penchant of New Hampshire voters to favor insurgents, Dean staked his electability claim on his status as an outsider who would be unencumbered by ties to special interests. But his campaign has focused on his opposition to the war, and polls indicate that New Hampshire voters put health care and the economy ahead of Iraq on their list of concerns. He castigated Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman for their votes in favor of a resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq.

Initially, Clark gained ground in the polls during the time he and Lieberman had the state to themselves, but he eventually suffered from Kerry's surge and persistent questions about his Democratic credentials.

Clark had positioned himself as an alternative to Dean, a tactic that quickly lost relevance as Kerry became the front-runner.

Edwards claimed that he would have the best chance of all the candidates to win votes in the South and would pose the biggest threat to Bush. Along with a charismatic stump style, Edwards offered himself as a populist champion whose record as a trial lawyer of winning large judgments for impoverished victims of medical malpractice would enable him to tackle society's injustices.

Lieberman, Al Gore's vice presidential running mate in 2000, hoped to win votes from moderates and conservative Democrats by cutting against the Democratic grain by advertising his support of the Iraq war. But despite moving into a Manchester apartment, he never gained much political traction in New Hampshire.