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Tight Race Developing for Next Test in US Presidential Nomination Race - 2004-01-21

Some new polls suggest a tight race is developing for next Tuesday's Democratic party primary election in the U.S. state of New Hampshire primary, the next major test in the 2004 presidential election campaign.

The new surveys indicate that Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is moving up in New Hampshire after his surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses on Monday.

The polls show Senator Kerry narrowly trailing former Vermont Governor Howard Dean for the lead followed by retired General Wesley Clark.

Mr. Dean finished a disappointing third in Iowa while General Clark skipped the Iowa vote to focus on New Hampshire.

As he campaigns around New Hampshire, Senator Kerry is trying to build on the momentum of his unexpected Iowa victory and convince voters that he is the best Democrat to run against President Bush in November.

"I am running for president so that you will have a president who is really on your side, a president that will take on the powerful interests that stand in your way," he said.

Howard Dean meanwhile is trying to keep his lead in New Hampshire after weeks of trying to fend off attacks from some of his rivals.

On Wednesday, Mr. Dean told New Hampshire voters that he wants new limits on campaign contributions to limit the influence of special interest groups in Washington.

"Now we want to institutionalize that so that never again will we have candidates who get up and talk about taking on the special interests while the special interests are funneling money into their campaign," he said.

Howard Dean had enjoyed a big lead in New Hampshire for much of the past year, based in large part on his early opposition to the war in Iraq. But many voters in the Iowa caucuses on Monday said they preferred other candidates because they had doubts that the former Vermont governor would be a strong enough candidate in the general election campaign against President Bush in November.

Another candidate who skipped Iowa to focus on New Hampshire is Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman. He has rented an apartment in New Hampshire since the first of the year but still lags in single digit support in public opinion polls.

North Carolina Senator John Edwards is also in the mix in New Hampshire, trying to build on his surprising second place finish in Iowa.

The winner in the New Hampshire primary usually gets a major boost as the campaign heads into a series of primary contests in the south, west and midwest beginning next month.