Democrats gird for New Hampshire vote

Jan. 22, 2004 at 7:24 AM

MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Campaigning was in high gear Thursday in the Democratic presidential race, with seven candidates posturing for votes in New Hampshire.

The Democrats meet Thursday night for a nationally televised debate that strategists see as one of the most critical encounters yet in the battle for the nomination, the Washington Post said.

Among the top contenders is former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who was defeated in Iowa by Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass.

Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who rose to challenge Dean while the other candidates were tied down in Iowa, is running third, the newspaper said.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., has staked his candidacy on a strong finish in New Hampshire, while Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., wants to capitalize on his strong second-place finish in Iowa to improve his standing in New Hampshire.

Thursday's debate will also include the two other remaining candidates, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Al Sharpton.

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