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Polls Show Kerry Lead Widening  in New Hampshire - 2004-01-24


Some new public opinion polls indicate Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is widening his lead in advance of Tuesday's New Hampshire presidential primary.

The latest polls show Senator Kerry expanding his lead here in New Hampshire with a close battle for second place now developing between former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark.

In one poll, Senator Kerry had opened up a 25-point lead over his rivals. That same poll indicated that General Clark has now moved into second place ahead of Mr. Dean, who had been leading in New Hampshire polls for months.

Another poll showed candidates Clark and Dean in a dead heat for second place. A third place finish here in New Hampshire by Howard Dean could be a major blow to his hopes of winning the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

In an effort to build on his momentum in the polls, General Clark met with supporters Saturday at a firehouse in the small town of Auburn Saturday.

"We need leadership that will pull this country together, not a leader who polarizes and divides us one from another. And that is a higher standard of leadership," he said. "That is why I am running. I'm not running to bash George Bush. I'm running to replace him!"

New Hampshire voter Karen Palver came out early to the pancake breakfast to hear General Clark. She is considering supporting either General Clark or Howard Dean and says the key factor for her will be which candidate has the better chance of defeating President Bush in the November election.

"Honesty and somebody who can win," she said. "What they say about education is very important to me and health care."

Another voter, Maureen Line, says she initially was drawn to Howard Dean but now is leaning toward General Clark. Like many Dean supporters over the past week, she is having doubts that he will be able to turn his campaign around after a disappointing third place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

"Their web page has not been updated as frequently as it was," she said. "You can't find out where he is. They haven't made any phone calls. I just don't understand what is happening to his campaign. I'm hoping it is not disintegrating."

Maureen Line is among a large group of New Hampshire voters who have yet to settle on a candidate. Opinion polls suggest between 20 and 30 percent of voters are still undecided.

The winner of the New Hampshire primary will get a major boost as the candidates head to the next series of primaries in the south, west and midwest.