WASHINGTON – Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is leading the Democratic field in New Hampshire, according to the latest American Research Group tracking poll ahead of Tuesday’s primary there. The Jan. 19-21 poll (margin of error: 4 percentage points) has Kerry at 27 percent (up from 19 percent just three days before), former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean at 22 percent (down from 28 percent), and retired Gen. Wesley Clark at 19 percent (down from 20 percent). North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was at 9 percent, and Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman at 7 percent. Fourteen percent were undecided.

Bush ribs press

in New Mexico

President Bush, who’s made keeping the news media at bay a high art form, played waiter at a Roswell, N.M., rib joint Thursday, and persistently told the media that answers weren’t on the menu. Working the crowd at the Nothin’ Fancy Cafe, Bush turned aside questions by asking reporters to dig deep into their pockets. “So instead of asking questions, answer mine: Are you going to buy some food?” Bush asked David Gregory, NBC’s White House correspondent. Bush explained to the lunchtime crowd that the media think his job is to answer all their questions all the time, then asked ABC’s Terry Moran what he’d like to have. “An answer,” Moran said.

Dean pokes fun

at Iowa scream

Fighting a cold, Dean coughed and croaked through two town hall meetings in western New Hampshire, kicking off the first with a novel diagnosis for his condition. “I still have not recovered my voice from my screeching in Iowa,” he said in Lebanon. The crowd cheered, stood and stomped. Later, a woman asked how he could overcome the fallout from his rant after the Iowa caucuses. “I lead with my heart and not my head,” Dean said. “That’s the only chance we have against George Bush. I’m not a perfect person. I have my warts. I sometimes say things that get me in trouble. I wear suits that are cheap. But I say what I think and I believe what I say, and I’m willing to say things that are not popular but ordinary people know are right.”

Knight Ridder Newspapers

While most candidates were campaigning in Iowa, Lieberman staked his claim in New Hampshire, renting an apartment in Manchester with his wife, Hadassah, and focusing almost all of his resources in the state. The latest tracking polls have him fifth, leading only Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and the Rev. Al Sharpton. “Integrity One,” a full-size bus rented by the Lieberman campaign, was more than half empty on its inaugural run Wednesday night. Thursday, as Lieberman introduced his wife to lunchtime customers at a popular Manchester eatery, a TV behind him broadcast an MSNBC segment on the New Hampshire primary; Lieberman wasn’t mentioned.

Rae Ferriero, the general manager of the Fairfield Inn in Manchester, was all smiles as she greeted Kucinich when he walked through the lobby Thursday seemingly oblivious to the inn’s history. Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun stayed at the hotel the night before she dropped out of the race, Ferriero said. “He (Kucinich) stayed here last night so he is probably next,” she said. “Who knows, this hotel could be the political kiss of death.”

In a letter dated Thursday, Sharpton informed Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe that he will continue his candidacy up until the Democratic convention in Boston this summer. Sharpton said he intends “to use all the delegates I will gather to ensure that the party’s platform is progressive, inclusive and reflective of the concerns of minority communities.”

The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and The Boston Phoenix all endorsed Kerry in their Thursday editions.

(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents William Douglas, Tom Fitzgerald, Carl Chancellor, Oscar Corral and Tim Funk contributed to this report.)

(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20040114 HOTOFFTHETRAIL

AP-NY-01-22-04 1826EST

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