Democratic Contenders Descend on New Hampshire

Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., stepped out of the race Tuesday after a disappointing fourth-place showing in Iowa, where he garnered just 11 percent of the vote.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry came in first with 38 percent, followed closely by North Carolina Sen. John Edwards with 32 percent. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean received 18 percent. And Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio took in 1 percent.

Kerry, who was behind in the Iowa polls until just a week before the caucus, called himself the “comeback Kerry” after his win in the first test of the Democratic presidential field.

“The whole world will be watching what you do here, as they were watching in Iowa,” Kerry told a gathering of New Hampshire voters on Tuesday.

Kerry also said in interviews that Dean could be beaten in New Hampshire, despite leading in the polls. “Well, obviously, we proved that in Iowa,” said Kerry.

Kerry also continued to tout the importance of his four terms in the U.S. Senate in comparison to the political experience of his top rivals, who include Dean, retired Gen. Wesley Clark and first-term senator, Edwards.

“I also have the experience to make America safer and stronger in the world during a very dangerous time, and I think people want a steady, tested hand at the helm of state,” Kerry said. “I can provide that.”

Edwards, who had a strong second place finish in Iowa, countered that the country needs “a leader who hasn’t spent their whole life in politics.”

“It’s a huge boost,” Edwards said of his strong showing in Iowa. “It’s like a fire spreading over Iowa over the last two weeks, and to finish the way we did was extraordinary.”

Dean, who was the front-runner going into the Iowa caucaus, has raised the most money of any of the candidates and run a successful Internet campaign. He expressed confidence that the battle in New Hampshire will be a fight to the finish.

“I used to be the front-runner when I went out to Iowa, but I’m not the front-runner any more,” Dean said at Portsmouth. “But New Hampshire has a great tradition of supporting the underdog. So guess what? Let’s go get them.”

The New Hampshire race also puts Clark and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who each skipped Iowa, into the campaign mix.

Lieberman said the unexpected results in Iowa give the race a fresh feel. “We’re now on to New Hampshire, and New Hampshire is a whole new ballgame,” he said.

“I think the race is wide open,” Clark told supporters at his headquarters in Manchester. “We’re feeling very, very good about where we are. We’re going to do well in New Hampshire.”

After New Hampshire, the race turns national with seven contests scheduled across the country on Feb. 3 and caucuses set for Feb. 7 in Michigan and Washington state.