MANCHESTER, N.H. – One day after the seven Democratic contenders for president faced off in their final debate before Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, new polls released Friday show John Kerry (search) still surging ahead of the pack.
The latest Boston Globe/WBZ tracking poll showed that the Massachusetts senator has opened a 15-point lead over former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) among New Hampshire primary voters. The showing was 5 percentage points better than in the poll released Thursday.
Kerry won 34 percent of the voters surveyed, while Dean dropped 2 points to 19 percent, according to the survey of 400 people. Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark (search) had 14 percent, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search) 11 and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (search) 3 percent.
The latest New Hampshire tracking poll from American Research Group (search), meanwhile, shows Kerry a full 11 percentage points ahead of Dean with 31 percent of the vote. The poll of 806 likely Democratic voters taken from Jan. 20-22 gave Clark 20 percent, Dean 18 percent and Edwards 11 percent.
An MSNBC/Reuters/Zogby poll gave Kerry a similar lead, with Edwards and Lieberman in single digits, while a WHDH/Suffolk College poll gave Kerry 26 percent of the vote, a full 7 percentage points ahead of Dean. Clark trailed Dean by only 2 percentage points in that poll.
Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, told Fox News that while all the polls show different numbers, the same trends are evident.
"Post-Iowa, Dean's support in New Hampshire has just collapsed and almost all of it has gone over toward John Kerry," Smith said, noting that Kerry has been picking up Dean supporters left and right, particularly women.
Edwards and Lieberman, on the other hand, Smith said, "are going to have a difficult time because the electorate here is a little more liberal than the message they're pitching."
While Kerry continued to pick up endorsements — including that of 1984 presidential nominee Walter Mondale — experts are cautioning that the independent-minded voters there could always offer up a surprise in the end.
"Definitely the race is very fluid, and I certainly wouldn't preclude a big change of opinion at the end of the race," said Peter Canellos, deputy managing editor for the Washington bureau of The Boston Globe, which endorsed Kerry.
But, he said, Kerry enjoys the "unusual phenomenon" where he's underestimated in the beginning but then "people come around to him … he's a good finisher."
"There's numbers that are all over the place … but all of them show that John Kerry's really moving, has tremendous momentum," Mark Mellman, a Democratic strategist for Kerry, said of the polls. "I think people have gotten to know who John Kerry is … people see in him the kind of person they want in a president."
Trying to Be Rock Stars and Neighbors
Lieberman, who even moved to New Hampshire to be closer to voters there, may be able to help his poll numbers and capitalize on the Granite State's political makeup.
"Democrats are now about 19 percent of the registered voters in New Hampshire so the key to our strategy all along is to reach out to he independent voters in New Hampshire who could take a Democrat or independent ballot on Election Day," Katrina Swett, Lieberman's campaign co-chair, told Fox News.
"We are definitely picking up ground and we feel that Joe just hit it out of the ballpark in the debate ... so we think we're going to get a little momentum from that as well," she added.
Lieberman stressed on "Fox and Friends" Friday morning that he was the candidate whom Americans could trust to be consistent.
"I am a centrist ... I haven't flip-flopped ... I'm the only Democrat who supported the war and money for our troops," he said. And "I will take the tough stands to protect our national security."
Lieberman has the endorsements of the Manchester Union Leader, The Foster's Daily Democrat, Laconia Citizen Lawrence Eagle Tribune.
"There is one person in the pool of Democrats who stands out as someone of character and high standards; someone who represents the ideals of the American people," the Laconia Citizen and Foster's Daily Democrat wrote in Friday's editions. "That person is Joe Lieberman."
Canellos said Thursday's performance was an "unfortunate debate" for Clark, who was "trying to develop a sort of rock-star appeal here in New Hampshire."
"I think Wesley Clark is showing a little bit of his inexperience as a politician," Canellos said.
All of the candidates know voters in the Granite State want a solid candidate who can defeat President Bush in November.
Kerry, familiar to New Hampshire residents, wants to appear presidential and as the man with the best experience. Meanwhile, he's shifted almost all of his Iowa campaign staff to Missouri, the state his camp thinks is the most important of all the Feb. 3 primary contests. Kerry is negotiating for Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt's endorsement, which will boost him in the Show Me State.
Winning Missouri is seen as vital for three reasons: it's geographically the center of the country, it's a demographically representative bellwether of the rest of the country and it has the most delegates of the Feb. 3 states — South Carolina, Missouri, Delaware, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico and North Dakota.
The Kerry campaign believes that if he wins in New Hampshire, a Missouri victory will fortify him for a national campaign.
Back on the Campaign Trail
Candidates continued to carry their debate messages to voters on Friday.
Dean derided Washington politicians who "say anything just to get elected" and expanded his target to Alan Greenspan (search), saying the Federal Reserve chairman "has become too political" and should be replaced.
In remarks to a United Auto Workers in Nashua, Dean said that with Gephardt out of the race, he's the one with the best labor record. "With your help, today will be the day the turnaround starts," Dean said.
Lieberman said in Manchester that Bush didn't have to claim Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction to justify going to war with Iraq. Lieberman supported the war thinks that United States is safer with Saddam in prison instead of in power.
"I think the president put too much emphasis on weapons of mass destruction because the case against Saddam was enough," the senator said. "Saddam was a weapon of mass destruction."
But, he added, "When you're commander in chief, you don't have the liberty to choose among threats to the lives of American citizens."
Clark will participate in a health-care forum in Manchester Friday, while Lieberman, his wife, Hadassah, and his "Integrity One" bus stopped at a Concord restaurant to meet with residents. Kerry, Edwards and Dean also had various meet-and-greets scheduled for Friday.
Bush will also travel to New Hampshire on Jan. 29, the White House said Friday. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, New York Gov. George Pataki and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who defeated Bush in the New Hampshire primary in 2000, also are scheduled to visit the state soon.
Dean's Downward Spiral
Dean's popularity has been declining since the Iowa caucuses, as shown in polls released Friday, as well as the Fox News New Hampshire Primary Tracking Poll from Thursday.
The Fox News poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center (search), showed that Dean dropped 7 percentage points while Kerry gained 6 points in the three days following Iowa.
Dean's slide has been attributed to his Monday night primal scream heard around the world.
Dean remotely appeared on "The Late Show" with David Letterman Thursday night to make light of his rant and read off the Top 10 "Ways, I, Howard Dean, can turn things around." Dean aids say they rejected two questions written by Letterman's writers, one ridiculing Bush, the other ridiculing rival Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
The No. 1 way was: "Oh, I don't know — maybe fewer crazy, red-faced rants."
Fox News' Carl Cameron, Major Garrett, Ellen Uchimiya and Kelly Wright contributed to this report.