Massachusetts Senator John Kerry won a convincing victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary Tuesday and is now the clear frontrunner for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean finished second and there was a close battle for third place between retired General Wesley Clark and North Carolina Senator John Edwards.
It was only a few months ago that Senator Kerry was struggling in the polls here in New Hampshire, trailing the longtime Democratic frontrunner, Howard Dean.
But Senator Kerry built on his strong first-place showing in the Iowa caucuses and drew support from Democrats here who said their number-one concern was choosing the strongest candidate to run against President Bush in the November election.
In his New Hampshire victory speech, Senator Kerry paid special tribute to fellow military veterans from the Vietnam War, who helped in his campaign.
"In the hardest moments of the past month, I depended on the same band of brothers that I depended on some 30 years ago. We are a little older and a little grayer, but I will tell you this, we still know how to fight for our country," he said.
Howard Dean's second-place finish in New Hampshire will keep him in the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. He told supporters it was a rebound of sorts after his disappointing third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last week.
"The people of New Hampshire have allowed our campaign to regain its momentum and I am very grateful. And, the people of New Hampshire have allowed all of you to hope again that we are going to have real change in America," he said.
The New Hampshire results will also keep retired General Wesley Clark and North Carolina Senator John Edwards in the hunt, as the primary schedule now moves south and west next week with primaries in seven states.
General Clark is hoping his New Hampshire showing will draw new supporters. "We want everyone to join us, no matter where you are from, what your background is or what your party registration might say," he said.
North Carolina Senator John Edwards is also looking for a boost out of New Hampshire. He is now one of the favorites for next week's primary in South Carolina. "And now, we are going to take this energy and momentum that we saw in Iowa," he said, this extraordinary energy and momentum we have seen in New Hampshire, and we are going to take it right through February Third and we are going to see great victories on February 3."
Trailing, in fifth place, in New Hampshire was Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman. He says his campaign will continue despite his disappointing finish. "Today, the people of New Hampshire put me in the ring and that is where we are going to stay,"
Senator Kerry is now the undisputed Democratic frontrunner, with victories in the first two contests, Iowa and New Hampshire. But the race now takes on a national dimension, as the surviving candidates attempt to contest in multiple state primaries in hopes of accruing enough delegates to claim the party's presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in late July.