Kerry rolls over N.H. rivals


Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 8:08 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 8:08 a.m.

New Hampshire primary winner John Kerry took firm control of the Democratic presidential race as it moved out of his backyard and went nationwide, his rivals bidding to stay competitive in the seven-state contest ahead.

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Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts celebrates with his supporters.

AP Photo/The Nashua Telegraph, Bob Hammerstrom

Kerry's win Tuesday added a bigger margin of victory to his Iowa upset a week earlier, giving him all the promise _ and peril _ of wearing the mantle of front-runner.

"Now this campaign goes on to places all over this country, and I ask Democrats everywhere to join us so that we can defeat George W. Bush and the economy of privilege," the Massachusetts senator, relaxed and beaming, told supporters Tuesday night.

Howard Dean, once the heavy national favorite, finished second and Wesley Clark, once considered the best bet to challenge him, lagged in a struggle for a distant third _ all of that testament to a campaign turned on its ear over the course of a week.

"Stand with us 'til the very end, which is January 20, 2005," the former Vermont governor told supporters, flashing smiles. He was more subdued than on caucus night in Iowa, when he delivered a screaming speech that he since has spent much time trying to live down.

"To those of you who believe that America needs real change, and someone in the White House who's really delivered change, we're all together in this," Dean said.

The opening one-two punch of the campaign proved the ability of two small states, with a combined population of barely 4 million, to shape the contest before it ever reaches a large cross-section of America.

Now it's on to seven states with more than 21 million people and 269 delegates to the Democratic convention at stake. The Missouri and South Carolina primaries are the richest prizes in a lineup next Tuesday that includes primaries in Arizona, Delaware and Oklahoma, and caucuses in New Mexico and North Dakota.

Kerry's victory means a flood of money is likely to flow to him heading into the wildly expensive races ahead, a series more dependent than Iowa and New Hampshire on television advertising and travel.

Dean raised more than $200,000 in the 24 hours before the primary, but has been spending it just as quickly.

With nearly all the precincts reporting in New Hampshire, Kerry had 39 percent and Dean 26 percent. Clark and John Edwards were locked in a tight battle for third _ each under the 15 percent threshold for claiming delegates. Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman was fifth, with 9 percent.

An AP analysis of the delegate count showed Kerry winning 13 delegates and Dean capturing nine.

Now, as the clear favorite, Kerry can be expected to take the brunt of criticism on the airwaves and the stump in the intense round of primaries ahead.

"He hasn't been in that position," Dean said of Kerry in an Associated Press interview. "We'll find out what happens."

Kerry said he can handle it.

"I've been in public life for a long time, and I have been in tough races before and have been scrutinized," Kerry told the AP. "I'm ready to lead our party to victory."

Clark, a retired NATO supreme allied commander and political newcomer backed by many former Bill Clinton aides, had skipped Iowa and made New Hampshire his first stand. He had the state practically to himself for days at a time, but to little effect.

"Four months ago, we weren't even in this race," he said. "We had no money. We had no office. All we had was hope and a vision for a better America.

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

Lieberman, who also made New Hampshire his first test, vowed to carry on despite the advice of some advisers to quit. "I am the one mainstream candidate in this race," he said.

New Hampshire offered the candidates a chance to test their appeal with independent voters as well as Democrats, and Kerry scored heavily on both sides.

Democrats liked his chances of beating Bush. Among voters who cared most about defeating the Republican president, 60 percent backed Kerry, according to an Associated Press exit poll of voters.

Moderates favored Kerry by 44 percent to 18 percent for Dean. Altogether, it was a marked turnaround for Kerry, down 25 points in New Hampshire polls when the year began.

"We were written off for months, and plugged on and showed people the determination we have to defeat President Bush," Kerry said.

But New Hampshire has a reputation of being ornery on occasion, too, and Kerry's opponents dared hope the diverse collection of upcoming contests would redraw the campaign yet again.

In particular, Edwards looked ahead to South Carolina, the state of his birth, to break out of the pack racing after Kerry. With his Arkansas roots and military credentials, Clark, too, has polled strongly in some southern and Midwest states.

"Beyond South Carolina, I don't want to make any predictions," Edwards said.

Few voters surveyed considered terrorism or national security the top issues on their minds _ only one in 20 said so. Among them, Clark did the best.

Kerry picked Missouri and South Carolina as his first stops after New Hampshire and said he would campaign in every state voting next Tuesday.

Dean insisted he will "play to win in every single state," shrugging off advice to skip South Carolina and save his money and energy for his most promising races.

Along with South Carolina, he plans to focus on Missouri, New Mexico and Arizona for the next round; Michigan and Washington state four days later; and Wisconsin, with its contest Feb. 17.

About 200,000 voters participated in the New Hampshire primary, easily eclipsing the record 170,000 turnout in 1992 when Paul Tsongas defeated then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton

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