With only two days to go until the New Hampshire presidential primary, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry continues to hold a comfortable lead over his six Democratic rivals. But a three-way battle seems to be developing for second place.
Most of the polls in New Hampshire indicate Senator Kerry has built a double-digit lead over former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and the other Democratic contenders.
But Senator Kerry is reluctant to discuss his lead in the polls, preferring to make the case that he would be the strongest Democrat to take on President Bush in the November election.
"I am not here to talk about polls," said Mr. Kerry on Fox News Sunday. "I do not look at the polls. I want to talk about why I am the best person to beat George Bush. And I think I am because I have 35 years of experience in fighting against powerful interests to get things done that really represent the concerns of people, real people."
A new poll from Newsweek magazine found Senator Kerry would defeat the president 49 to 46 percent if the election were held today. Newsweek says that is the first time their poll shows a Democrat beating the president.
The latest polls also indicate that while Senator Kerry is holding a comfortable lead over his six rivals, there is a close battle brewing for second place in New Hampshire.
Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, retired General Wesley Clark and North Carolina Senator John Edwards are all within striking distance of a second-place finish.
Howard Dean, who led in New Hampshire for months, emphasized his foreign policy differences with the president during a Sunday rally.
"If you make me president, I will restore the honor and the dignity and the respect that this country deserves by embarking on a foreign policy that is principally based on cooperation and not confrontation," he announced.
All three contenders trailing Senator Kerry continue to draw large crowds. For example, when Senator John Edwards spoke at a school in the town of Rochester near the New Hampshire-Maine border late Saturday, the crowd was so large that it spilled over into a second room.
Senator Edwards is hoping for the same kind of late surge of support here that propelled him to a surprisingly strong second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
"This democracy, this government, it does not belong to that crowd of insiders in Washington and their lobbyists," he said. "It belongs to you and when I am your president, we will restore the power in this democracy to you, where it began, where it belongs. You and I, we are going to do this together. Yes we are!"
New Hampshire voter Jennifer Shone has yet to decide who she will support in Tuesday's primary. Like many voters here, she is concerned with issues like health care, education and the environment. But she says the determining issue for her is finding the Democrat with the best chance of defeating President Bush in the November election.
"I watched the debate the other night and that helped to fine-tune some things again for me," she said. "So, I think a lot of people are still undecided, but one thing I think people are decided about is we want George Bush out of there."
Tuesday's New Hampshire primary is seen as a major test in the battle for the Democratic party's presidential nomination. After New Hampshire, the next major test will come in South Carolina and six other states on February 3.