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Polls Show  Kerry Lead in New Hampshire Presidential Primary Race Increasing - 2004-01-24

Public opinion polls show Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is adding to his lead over his six rivals seeking the Democratic presidential nomination and the right to challenge President Bush for the White House next November. The Democratic candidates are campaigning at a furious pace before next Tuesday's crucial primary in the state of New Hampshire.

At a packed rally here in Manchester Friday, frontrunner John Kerry charged that the Bush administration is proposing to cut benefits for war veterans. He says tens of thousands of men and women who have served in the U.S. military currently have to wait for months to see a doctor.

Senator Kerry, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, said such cuts should not be made while taxes are being reduced for wealthy Americans. "We have the money for tax cuts for people who earn more than $200,000 a year, but we don't have the money for our veterans," he said. "Well ladies and gentlemen, this campaign is about making it clear, not just to veterans but to everybody in this country, that we are not going to take any lessons in patriotism from those who don't understand that the first definition of patriotism is keeping faith with those who wore the uniform of our country."

While Senator Kerry is surging in the polls, former Vermont governor Howard Dean continues to suffer the political fallout from his recent third place showing in the Iowa caucuses and an emotional concession speech that has been widely criticized.

Still Governor Dean, who for months was the frontrunner here in New Hampshire, says he still thinks he has a chance to win.

"We have got a long way to go to catch up from the loss in Iowa. But I think we have turned it around," he said. "We are seeing some indications of that and I think we can win it too. You know New Hampshire is a state that one, likes underdogs and two, New Hampshire likes people who stand up and say what they think."

Mark Halperin, the political director for the ABC television network, says while Governor Dean has stumbled badly, he still has a chance to recover some of the support he had here only weeks ago.

Mr. Halperin told VOA that Mr. Dean must regain control of his campaign and the confidence of the voters.

"Governor Dean has had happen to him the worst thing that can happen to you in presidential politics, he has lost control of his public image," he said. "He needs to get back on track, talking about the issues he wants to talk about, but more importantly, being seen in the context of being a successful governor, being a doctor, being someone who had the capacity all of 2003 to inspire Democrats to his message. If he can get back in control of that image in the next few days, I think he can right himself and have a good chance to reclaim a lot of the supporters he had just a few weeks ago when he was in a commanding position in this primary."

Surveys say retired General Wesley Clark continues to run third in New Hampshire, while North Carolina Senator John Edwards is in fourth place.

Senator Edwards is enjoying large crowds at campaign events, but has yet to see a big bounce in support following his surprising second place showing earlier this week in Iowa.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and civil rights activist Al Sharpton are all running far behind the other candidates.