LACONIA, N.H. – Democratic presidential contender John Kerry (search) lined up the endorsement of South Carolina Sen. Ernest Hollings (search) on Thursday as he sought to expand support beyond the confines of New Hampshire and next week's first-in-the-nation primary.
Democratic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hollings would convey his endorsement at a late-afternoon appearance in his home state. Fox News confirmed that Hollings would officially support the Massachusetts senator.
Hollings has long been viewed as a likely supporter of Kerry, with whom he has served in the Senate for two decades.
Hollings, who was an Army captain during World War II, planned to join Kerry in New Hampshire on Friday for campaign appearances aimed at appealing to military veterans. Also planning to attend were former Sen. Max Cleland (search) of Georgia, a disabled Vietnam veteran, and Jim Rassmann, the man Kerry pulled to safety during a firefight in Vietnam.
In addition, Kerry said he had had private talks with Rep. Dick Gephardt (search), whose withdrawal from the campaign earlier this week created a wide-open race for delegates in his home state of Missouri.
The Massachusetts senator also pocketed the endorsement of one of the largest union locals in Michigan, part of the United Food and Commercial Workers (search) union, which had been supporting Gephardt nationally.
Missouri and South Carolina are among seven states picking delegates in primaries and caucuses on Feb. 3, one week after New Hampshire's single-state contest.
"This isn't the only place there is a race," Kerry said Thursday from New Hampshire, where polls show him getting a large bounce on the heels of his startling win in Monday night's Iowa caucuses.
Speaking with reporters on his campaign bus, Kerry said he has spoken with Gephardt since the Missouri congressman dropped out of the race on Tuesday. Gephardt's backing would be an important factor in Missouri, one of seven states that will hold primaries on Feb. 3.
Since he arrived in New Hampshire, Kerry has kept to a relatively calm schedule, compared to the frantic pace he kept in Iowa, where he was the come-from-behind victor on Monday night. He said much of his time has been spent trying to catch up in other early states where some of his rivals may have an edge,
Kerry pulled much of his campaign staff from other states to focus on Iowa and New Hampshire, which votes on Tuesday. He's one of the few candidates not on the air with television commercials in the states that vote on Feb. 3. With momentum now in his corner, and upward movement in the polls, Kerry is scrambling to rebuild his campaign infrastructure in those states.
"Part of what I've been doing in the last few days is being on the phone to people in Missouri and elsewhere, talking to people and getting geared up," said Kerry. "There will be some things unfolding over the next couple of days that will reflect that."
Kerry declined to characterize his conversations with Gephardt, whose backing could be important not just for his status in Missouri but because of the significant support Gephardt was able to generate among labor unions. Those unions are now largely on the sidelines, and many are expected to sit there until the Democrats pick a nominee.
Kerry and his strategists have been working overtime to reach out to those unions.
"I don't have any idea what Dick will do," Kerry said of Gephardt. "He's a pro, he's a man of great personal conviction and judgment about this process. He'll make up his own mind."
The campaign will take a sharp turn after New Hampshire's primary, moving from an intense retail phase in Iowa and New Hampshire to a string of multistate primary days. For Kerry, the strategy is still being developed.
"I don't know where I'm going Tuesday night," he said.
Still, Kerry said he began laying the groundwork well before his surprising Iowa showing.
"We did not wait to be surprised by Iowa," said Kerry. "We had teams in place, a specific strategy in place and that strategy is being executed."
Kerry also is focusing on raising campaign cash, where he's trailed some of his rivals. The early success has turned that around, Kerry said,
"We're doing spectacularly," said Kerry. "We've raised an extraordinary amount on the Internet, record amounts in the last 24 hours."
Kerry spoke at a noisy rally of about 400 backers, sounding his campaign themes with energy. He focused his fire entirely on President Bush, ignoring his rivals. He was spending much of the afternoon meeting with strategists to prepare for an evening debate that will be the final faceoff before Tuesday's primary. Kerry's surge is expected to make him a target in the seven-candidate field.
"I'm going to continue to put out a positive vision for the country," said Kerry. "That's what I did in Iowa, that's what I'm doing everywhere."