MANCHESTER, N.H.. — Eight days after labeling himself a
comeback, Sen. John Kerry continued on his victory ride to win the
New Hampshire primary with a 13-point margin over runner-up former
Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Mira Levitan
John Kerry, his wife Theresa and his campaigners celebrate at the Manchester, N.H. Holiday Inn ballroom last night after winning the New Hampshire primary. (JEFF LEHNERT/Daily)

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark barely edged out Sen. John Edwards to
finish in third place. Sen. Joe Lieberman, who skipped the Iowa
caucuses, finished in fifth place. Rep. Dennis Kucinich came in at
sixth place. Rev. Al Sharpton did not campaign in the state.

Kerry’s euphoric fans packed themselves into the ballroom
at the Manchester Holiday Inn after the polls closed. Supporters
chanted, “Bring it on.” Taking the stage, Kerry
responded, “I’ll give it to you.”

“I love New Hampshire … and I love Iowa too and
hope with your help to have the blessings and the opportunities to
love a lot of other states,” said Kerry.

The senator thanked veterans, who helped him secure his first
two victories.

“I depended on the same band of brothers I depended on 30
years ago. We still know how to fight for our country,” he
said.

Kerry then turned to the economy. He pledged not to pander to
those he called “Benedict Arnold CEOs,” referring to
American corporations that relocate overseas.

He also addressed the war in Iraq.

“No young American should ever be held hostage to this
country’s dependence on oil,” he said.

New Hampshire has an open primary, meaning independents can
participate. But independents must register as Democrats or
Republicans at the polling site, said Dianne Beaton, ward clerk for
Manchester’s first ward. They can renounce their party
affiliation after submitting their ballots, she added.

“Voters in New Hampshire don’t want to be
pigeonholed into one party,” Beaton said, explaining the high
number of independents in the state.

In addition to having relatively few registered partisans, New
Hampshire contributes few delegates to the presidential nominating
conventions and has been called unrepresentative of the nation as a
whole. But Beaton said the frontloaded primary schedule gives her
state’s citizens a chance they wouldn’t otherwise
have.

“New Hampshire’s early primary gives the
state’s voters the opportunity to voice their concerns to the
potential presidential nominees,” Beaton said.

One of those voters, Robin Fiala said she chose Kerry over
Clark, whom she was considering until last week, because she
believed the senator is more knowledgeable and has a better chance
at beating Bush.

Cathleen Tibault, a registered Democrat from the ninth ward,
decided to vote for Kerry after hearing him speak at a
firefighters’ rally two months ago.

“I like what he’s doing for the firefighters,”
she said. She added that she liked Kerry’s targeted health
care plan, which she said aids those most in need of care.

Explaining his vote for Dean, third ward voter Dave Chatfield
said, “It doesn’t hurt to be a bit bold.”
“I felt he believed in what he was talking about,” he
added. Chatfield said he decided who he was voting for when he
walked in the door at the polling site.

“On the way here I was still undecided,” he said.
Dean’s stances on education and tax reform helped convince
Chatfield to vote for the Governor.

“I like the way he spoke out on Iraq,” Ninth ward
voter Pam Gagnon said, referring to Dean’s staunch opposition
to the war. “He doesn’t go with the flow,” she
added. “He’s not a puppet.”

“We need someone out of the beltway loop,” said
Chris Adams, who also voted for the Governor in the ninth ward.
“We need to clean the smog out of the air,” he added.
Adams said he made his decision within 40 minutes of arriving at
the polls.

“I closed my eyes and imagined who would be there Jan.
20,” he said, referring to the date of next year’s
presidential inauguration. The man he saw was Howard Dean.

Registered democrat Matt Thibeault voted for Edwards in the
third ward.

“I just think the man’s got a good soul,” he
said.

Aurore Vincent, from the ninth ward, called Edwards, the son of
a mill worker, a “down to earth, regular guy.”

Vincent, who opposes abortion, voted for the Senator even though
he supports a woman’s right to choose.

“I had no choice,” Vincent said. She decided on
Edwards after viewing the final debate in New Hampshire last
Thursday.

“He’s not reaching for the impossible. He’s
reaching out to the average intellect, the average American,”
Vincent said.

Thibeault decided on Edwards just two days ago after narrowing
his choice down to Edwards and Lieberman. He was won over by
Edward’s “theme of two different schemes,”
constantly referred to by the Senator as “two
Americas”.

“Lieberman is too close to a Republican,” Thibeault
added. “He still claims Saddam had something to do with 9/11.
I don’t buy that.”

Thibeault said Edwards’ plan to eliminate the deficit
influenced his decision, though the Senator would not repeal
middle-class tax cuts. Thibeault, father of two, said education
reform was an issue on which Edwards prevailed over the other
candidates.

“Edwards is going to be a lot stronger in the South than
Gore/Lieberman were,” he said, noting the senator’s
viability.

Another third ward voter, Kris Shultz, elected Clark, who lost
half his support in New Hampshire in the week since Iowa.

“Clark opposes the war, but his military experience gives
him street credibility,” Shultz said. She added that the
General’s Southern roots and humble background made an impact
on her decision.

The Republican primary was also held in New Hampshire yesterday
as a formality. The Republican Party has already decided incumbent
George W. Bush will be their nominee.

Kerry’s campaign, with two victories to its credit, may
spell trouble for Dean. Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination
without winning Iowa or New Hampshire. But Clinton, former Arkansas
governor, could manage in his native South. Howard Dean has no such
luxury.

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