One leading Democratic presidential contender was concentrating his efforts in Iowa Thursday, the first caucus state in the nation, while another was getting his voice back in New Hampshire.
Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark (search) unveiled his economic plan in New Hampshire, where he plans to make his first stand for the presidential nomination, foregoing the Hawkeye State. Clark said he would repeal President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, consider eliminating the tax cuts on stock dividends, inheritances and capital gains, and leave the middle-class tax cuts in place.
"My voice may be a little weak, but I think my message is pretty strong," Clark said after five days of suffering from a sore throat.
Clark's plan to repeal tax cuts for people earning more than $200,000 a year puts him at odds with Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt (search) and New Hampshire front-runner, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search). They would repeal all the Bush tax cuts. Clark's positions align more closely with those of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who say some Bush tax cuts did help average working families.
"Let's face it, the average American got something from these tax cuts, 50 dollars a month. I got a little back on my military retirement pay," Clark said.
Dean disagrees, and wasted no time panning Clark's plan as he worked his way through the first caucus state of Iowa.
"Well, let's be honest. They didn't get any help," Dean told Fox News.
Dean wants a double whammy in January with wins in both New Hampshire and Iowa, the latter of which has swept up a good chunk of his money and time. Dean is now the only candidate in the campaign to have visited all of Iowa's 99 counties. His Iowa staff is larger and he has even outspent Gephardt, who considers Iowa his must-win state.
But Gephardt appears to be in a dead heat with Dean in the latest poll, one point ahead, which while not statistically significant is an improvement over other recent polls that had him behind Dean.
Gephardt's recent surge has been largely attributed to new television ads, and separately, tough attacks on Dean for positive comments he made in the 1990s about GOP efforts to reform Medicare. Gephardt's Iowa team is also considered more experienced when it comes to organizing caucus campaigns, a distinct tradition in Iowa.
But Dean isn't taking the assault lying down, and now has become the first candidate this campaign to hit the airwaves with a counterattack television ad.
"Instead of fixing the problem, the best my opponents can do is talk about what was said eight years ago," Dean says in the ad.
Dean told Fox News that he had to spend the money to respond because Gephardt's attacks were starting to stick.
"People are actually starting to believe the nonsense that Dick Gephardt is putting out about Medicare (search). I'm a strong supporter of Medicare. I'm going to continue to be a strong supporter of Medicare. And I'm not going to take any sass from the people in Washington who haven't done much about it," he said.
Dean's lead is big enough in New Hampshire that he can now focus most of his attention on Iowa. His camp said if they can pull off a victory in Iowa, they can conceivably run the table in early primary and caucus states, setting up an unstoppable force toward the nomination.
But winning the Iowa caucus does not necessarily mean winning the nomination or the presidency. The last time someone won the Iowa caucus and became the nominee was in 1984, when Walter Mondale challenged Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter is the last candidate to win Iowa's caucus as well as the presidency.
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.