Kerry carries winner's momentum

Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 5:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 5:04 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) - John Kerry has a winner's pocketful of money and momentum for a cross-country campaign blitz designed to solidify his standing atop the Democratic presidential field. His rivals must make do with less _ and with little time.

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Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., waves while boarding his campaign plane at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., Wednesday Jan. 28, 2004. Kerry, who won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, heads out to visit St. Louis and South Carolina.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Reeling from Kerry's back-to-back thrashings in Iowa and New Hampshire, Howard Dean retreated Wednesday to Vermont where he resisted efforts by advisers to scale back his fight-in-every-state ambitions. The former governor also was considering staff changes.

"I think they can get their act together," said Jeff Link, a Dean supporter and strategist to Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who has endorsed Dean. "But the hard part is, how do you slow Kerry down after two big wins?"

The same question loomed for Wesley Clark and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina after they finished 26 percentage points behind Kerry and 14 percentage points behind Dean in New Hampshire. They hope to cherry-pick a victory or two _ and some delegates _ from the list of seven states holding elections Tuesday.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut finished fifth, and ignored the advice of some supporters to drop out. "I got a good start," he said, even as some backers said he was finished.

Kerry pressed his advantage Wednesday by preparing to saturate the airwaves with political ads in all seven states _ Missouri, Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Delaware and North Dakota.

He unveiled key endorsements, starting with South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and worked to secure more proof that the Democratic establishment was falling behind his candidacy. Aides said they expected to bring the governors of Michigan and Arizona into the fold soon.

Still, Kerry has his hurdles to climb. He has not aired ads or visited the states in months. And, as the front-runner, he is now a big target spreading his resources across seven states while rivals choose their spots.

He has adopted the same momentum-building strategy once used by Dean, who racked up endorsements from former Vice President Al Gore and his 2000 rival, Bill Bradley, along with Harkin and two major labor unions.

The high-profile embraces contrasted with Dean's antiestablishment image, slowing a campaign already staggered by the candidate's miscues and his rivals' attacks. Kerry doesn't expect that problem because he hopes to be the establishment candidate, the rallying point for party elite wary of Dean.

That leaves the New Hampshire also-rans little room to maneuver in seven states where voters are just starting to pay attention _ with their first sight being a front-running Kerry.

The candidates' problems are compounded by a lack of money. Even Dean, the field's top fund-raiser, has less than $5 million on hand. He has not aired TV ads in any of the seven states this week, and it would cost at least $1.5 million to saturate the airwaves, like Kerry.

Several Dean advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there is not enough time to slow Kerry's momentum before Tuesday. They want to build what one aide called a political firewall, ceding most, if not all, of Tuesday's races to focus on Michigan and Washington state on Feb. 7 and Wisconsin 10 days later.

Dean said no. "We're going to try everywhere," he told The Associated Press.

Right now, Dean is playing nowhere. Although he plans to travel to Missouri, Arizona, South Carolina and New Mexico, he has no ads airing in those states. It will be hard to run a serious campaign in any state without TV advertising.

Edwards is airing ads in South Carolina, Oklahoma and New Mexico. In a bid to turn the race into Kerry vs. Edwards, he bought TV ad time Wednesday in Missouri, which is Tuesday's biggest prize with 74 delegates.

Kerry leads in polls in Missouri, which came into play only recently when native son Rep. Dick Gephardt dropped out of the race. Gephardt's top strategist, Steve Elmendorf, joined Kerry's team. He knows Missouri politics, but Elmendorf's greatest assets are his ties to labor and Capitol Hill.

Despite Kerry's advantages, Edwards, Clark and Dean are waging Missouri campaigns in hopes of picking up a few delegates. Under party rules, delegates are divided among strong finishers.

Clark has aired ads in Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Dakota and New Mexico for weeks. He hopes that gives him an edge, even after all the free publicity Kerry got out of his twin victories.

Lieberman has aired ads in Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Delaware, but he has little money and no momentum after New Hampshire.

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