MANCHESTER, N.H. — The blistering cold was no match for
the fiery supporters of four of the top five leading Democratic
presidential hopefuls who campaigned in New Hampshire’s
largest city yesterday in anticipation of today’s first
national primaries.

Amita Madan
Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, a retired general, speaks to a crowd at the Palace Theater in Manchester, N.H., yesterday. New Hampshire voters will cast their ballots in Republican and Democratic primaries tonight.
JEFF LEHNERT/Daily

The latest poll conducted by Quinnipiac University indicates
that Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who did not campaign in
Manchester yesterday, is in the lead with 30 percent of likely
voter support.

Kerry is followed by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (17), Gen.
Wesley Clark (14), Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina (14) and
Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut (8), all of whom appeared in
Manchester yesterday.

Dean

Dean, who is trying to re-group after a disappointing third
place showing in Iowa, spoke for nearly an hour in the mid-morning
to an energized crowd on nearly every major issue — from the
recent round of Bush-led tax cuts to sex education.

“There was no middle class tax cut,” Dean said,
adding that although some Americans got money back from the tax
cuts, they spent it all on higher college tuition and health care
premiums.

Dean also assailed Bush for allowing the national debt to reach
$500 million. ‘’Bush is running a credit card
presidency … but on our grandchildren’s credit
card,” he said.

Turning to sex education, Dean promised to reverse the policy of
providing federal aid only to programs that exclusively teach
abstinence as a form of birth control. “We need to stop the
nonsense of abstinence-only federal grants for sex ed. If you want
to stop teenage pregnancy, give (adolescents) the facts,” he
said.

The former Governor also made several appeals to the mostly
pro-Dean audience to spread his message. He jokingly asked his
supporters be “Dean draggers” and drag their friends to
the polls.

Clark

No more than a half-hour after Dean finished speaking, a mob of
political followers, this time mostly Clark supporters, stampeded
to the steps of the Manchester City Hall building. Clark arrived
shortly after 2 p.m. and delivered a quick, three-minute stump
speech in which he portrayed himself as an accomplished leader who
is not a professional politician.

“I need your support to bring a higher standard of
leadership to America,” Clark said, quoting his campaign
slogan. “I am not a professional politician. I have never ran
for office.”

Although Clark only spoke for a few minutes, groups of
supporters encircled the town hall steps well before the General
arrived. One such pro-Clark group, Mikva Challenge of Chicago,
stood behind Clark while he spoke, each member donning a different
campaign sign.

“I believe he is an ordinary American. He can take us
places we’ve never been,” said Mikva member Kiara
Harris.

Edwards

Later in the evening, Edwards spoke in the same theater Dean had
earlier in the day. His supporters were not as vociferous as
Dean’s were, but they were equally numerous.

Edwards began his speech by describing what he calls “two
different Americas,” a theme he has used many times before
while campaigning. He spent the majority of his 20-minute speech
citing examples of what a separate America means.

He focused part of his remarks on racism, which he says still
divides the nation. Edwards used his own experiences to illustrate
the importance of racial issues. “I grew up in the South in
the 50’s and 60’s and know how important it is to
overcome these things … I remember movie theaters where
blacks were sent to the balcony,” he said.

“This is not an African-American issue or an
Asian-American issue. It is an American issue … (we want)
our children and grandchildren to grow up in a country not divided
by race,” Edwards added.

Edwards also mentioned his proposal to fund higher education.
The plan would guarantee in-state public school tuition to any
student who qualifies for college and is willing to work ten hours
a week.

“I like Edwards. I think he is it. All the issues he is
speaking of are a basic analysis of what’s wrong with this
frickin’ country,” said Edward Bailey, a local
elementary school teacher.

Bailey said that although he is unable to vote because of his
British citizenship, he still feels it is his responsibility to
promote the candidacy of John Edwards.

“He simply has heart,” Bailey added.

Lieberman

Joe Lieberman took a lighter approach to campaigning in
Manchester last night. He gathered with a group of supporters at a
local tavern, opting against a large town hall meeting like Dean
and Edwards, or a city hall speech like Clark.

Instead of spending most of his time discussing issues,
Lieberman choose to highlight his character.

“I’m the only candidate to have only one position on
every issue,” Lieberman said. “Issues and ideas are
important, but it’s all about the candidates
(character).”

Lieberman finished his speech by with a brief call for expanded
health care, the creation of 10 million jobs in four years, a
decrease in the poverty level and a reduction by two-thirds of the
US. dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Evelyn Janas, a 56 year-old social worker from Manchester, said
she woke up yesterday undecided between Edwards and Lieberman.
After hearing their speeches, she said she would vote for
Lieberman.

“He’s experienced. I would say that I just feel
trust in him,” Janas said, adding that her positive feelings
from when Lieberman ran for vice president in 2000 were another
factor in his appeal.

Midway through Lieberman’s speech, an elderly man
hollered, “Who is the dame in the red sweater,”
referring to Lieberman’s wife, Hadassah Lieberman.

“You know … you are a dirty old man,”
Lieberman replied jokingly. “One of the other candidates has
Madonna, I have Hadassah.”

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio amd the Rev. Al Sharpton, both
candidates in tomorrow’s primary, did not campaign in
Manchester yesterday.

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