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Democrats fire shots in final New Hampshire push

Dean, Kerry spar over foreign policy

A homemade sign in Hanover, New Hampshire, expresses the view of a shrinking number of voters.
A homemade sign in Hanover, New Hampshire, expresses the view of a shrinking number of voters.

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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) -- Presidential candidates in New Hampshire aimed blows at each other's campaigns and backgrounds Monday, hoping to swing voters to their side in the hours before Tuesday's Democratic primary.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean questioned John Kerry's judgment because of the Massachusetts senator's stance on the two wars against Iraq, while Kerry hinted Dean was being hypocritical, running a negative campaign while urging other candidates to keep it clean.

Despite sub-freezing temperatures, the candidates were out in force Monday, greeting supporters and trying to win converts at coffee shops and diners.

Dean has also been pumping cash into campaign advertising in New Hampshire. CNN estimates that Dean has spent more than $1 million in the past week in the Granite State.

Dean -- who until his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last week had led in New Hampshire polls -- highlighted Kerry's support of the Iraq war but his opposition to the first conflict, launched in 1991 after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

"Foreign policy expertise depends on patience and judgment," Dean said in Nashua. "I question Senator Kerry's judgment when he voted 'no' in 1991 and 'yes' [in 2002]. I think it should be the other way around."

The Kerry campaign fired back with a statement slamming Dean for "ending this New Hampshire campaign the same way he started it -- by angrily tearing down his opponents rather than offering any positive vision of his own."

John Edwards, whose second-place finish in Iowa was credited to his focus on positive messages, saw beyond-capacity crowds at stops in Milford and Portsmouth.

Speaking to reporters later, the North Carolina senator said: "It tells me something's happening, and we'll have to see whether it carries into [Tuesday]."

Edwards, who was born in South Carolina, has also made a point of stressing his modest roots, often describing himself as the son of a textile mill worker and noting that he was the first one in his family to go to college.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark was also highlighting his modest upbringing compared with the Ivy-league backgrounds of Kerry, Dean and President Bush, telling people at a diner in Keene: "I didn't go to Yale."

He described himself as the only candidate who grew up poor and said he was the only true Washington outsider. Clark later said he may have overstated his point.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut hosted one of his "cup of Joe" events at a restaurant in Manchester, where he described his campaign as in its "final kick" and said he would do "better than expected."

Asked to define that, Lieberman said, "We'll know it when we see it."

Watching the weather

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Sunday night showed Kerry in the lead with support of 36 percent of likely voters, followed by Dean at 25 percent. The third-place slot, according to the poll, was tight, with Clark at 13 percent, and both Lieberman and Edwards at 10 percent.

Trailing were Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio with 1 percent and civil right activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, also with 1 percent. Only 4 percent of those surveyed described themselves as having no opinion or favoring someone else.

The poll was based on weekend interviews with New Hampshire residents who said they planned to vote in the Democratic primary. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Other polls released Monday also showed Kerry in the lead, but the margins varied.

Senior CNN political analyst Bill Schneider cautioned against relying on the polls too much, saying tracking polls in previous years have not accurately predicted the winning margin.

"New Hampshire voters pull surprises all the time," he said, adding that the weather might be a factor by affecting turnout. (Snow predicted)

Results from New Hampshire -- where the expectations game means the winning margin may be as important as who wins -- promise to reverberate into next week, when seven states, including South Carolina and Missouri, hold contests.(CNN.com's interactive Election Calendar)

The February 3 contest in Missouri is considered wide open after favorite son Rep. Dick Gephardt dropped out of the presidential race.

Other developments

• Web-savvy voters can donate to the presidential candidate of their choice with a point and a click. Amazon.com has launched an online method for contributing to White House hopefuls. (Full story)

• Former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay's comments that his team could find no evidence Iraq had stockpiled unconventional weapons before the March invasion drew mixed reactions from three Democratic presidential candidates Sunday. (Full story)

CNN's Laura Bernardini, Phil Hirschkorn, Dan Lothian, Jeanne Meserve, Kelly Wallace, Liza Kaufman Hogan and Judy Woodruff contributed to this report.


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