MANCHESTER, N.H. – Howard Dean (search ), hoping to narrow the lead John Kerry has taken in New Hampshire Saturday, criticized the front-running Massachusetts senator over his approach to Iraq.
"I would be deeply concerned about that kind of judgment in the White House," said Dean, the one-time front-runner struggling to overcome a reversal that has vaulted Kerry into first place in the polls for Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary.
The former Vermont governor pointed out that Kerry opposed the 1991 Gulf War (search) and supported the 2003 invasion, whereas Dean had the opposite views. "I think my position has proven to be right twice," Dean added.
A Kerry spokeswoman predicted the remarks would backfire. "When is Howard Dean going to realize that voters are tired of these same old angry attacks," said Stephanie Cutter. "Voters are looking for a steady hand, not a clenched fist."
In public, the seven men hoping to take on President Bush in November braved icy temperatures to participate in the rituals of New Hampshire politics.
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark (search ) met celebrity friends Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen at a pancake breakfast, while Kerry suited up for a hockey game that featured Ray Bourque, other retired Boston Bruins stars and New Hampshire high school players.
Sen. John Edwards (search ) of North Carolina, who is gaining support according to most polls, literally bowled for votes at an alley in Merrimack.
All the candidates except Al Sharpton spoke at an annual fund-raiser for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Sen. Joe Lieberman (search ) has been lagging in the polls, but told diners that he was experiencing an "outbreak of Joe-mentum." He was one of many candidates to sound the night's brotherly call — that all must unite against President Bush at the end of the nomination fight.
Campaigns Looking Ahead
The campaigns were also preparing for states that vote after New Hampshire, beginning with seven contests in all regions of the country on Feb. 3.
Edwards, who hopes for a breakthrough victory in South Carolina on that day, announced he would compete in Missouri. His campaign has hired two former aides to Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt (search ), who dropped out of the race on Tuesday.
"It's late, but it's late for everybody and this gives us a strong team to start with," said a spokeswoman, Jen Palmieri.
The state became competitive when Gephardt quit the race, and its 74 delegates make it the biggest prize of the night.
Kerry, who has benefited from his Iowa caucus victory, is expected to compete in all seven states — particularly so if he finishes strongly in New Hampshire and thereby collects more in campaign contributions.
He, too, was giving new attention to Missouri, and hired Steve Elmendorf, a top aide to Gephardt for a decade.
Dean appears in poor position to absorb a strong setback along the lines of his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. He decided to spend about $500,000 in late television advertising in New Hampshire, leaving his campaign off the air, at least for the time being, in the Feb. 3 states.
"We can win this. What we are seeing in the last few days is that people who went away from us after we lost Iowa are coming back," the former Vermont governor exhorted his New Hampshire supporters during the day.
The polls suggested that Kerry was well ahead and that Dean possibly was still sliding in the wake of his Iowa defeat and a subsequent angry-looking appearance before supporters in the state.
His campaign struggled to rebound. It announced plans to distribute 50,000 copies of a recent ABC "Prime Time" interview granted by the former governor and his wife. The interview, which first aired on Thursday, showed a softer, more relaxed and likable side of Dean than was on display in the hours after his third-place finish in Iowa.
Still, Dean's decision to criticize Kerry marked a potentially risky shift in strategy. There has been little to none of the type of attacks that characterized the end of the Iowa campaign, and the caucus results rewarded Kerry and Edwards, who generally stayed above the fray.
In his remarks about Kerry, Dean said the Massachusetts senator opposed the first Persian Gulf War, which former President George H.W. Bush waged after Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait's oil fields, while supporting the one that ousted the Iraqi dictator in 2003.
Dean took the opposite position in both cases.
"Here is a gentleman who's running, who votes no in 1991 when there are troops in Kuwait and the oil fields are on fire, and then votes yes and there turns out not to be a threat," Dean said.
"I would be deeply concerned about that kind of judgment in the White House. His voting record on Iraq is exactly the opposite of mine, and I think my position has proven to be right twice," Dean said of Kerry.
In other comments with uncertain repercussions, Dean told reporters traveling with him that he had been hit by "under the table" campaigning in Iowa.
Dean said his rivals "had their folks really beating up on the people who went in, trying to get them to change their minds in caucus," and singled out a manual that the Edwards campaign had given to its precinct captains.
"I think Iowa is going to have to change the way it conducts its caucuses if it wants to continue to be first," Dean said.
Kerry during the day picked up the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental organization that had never before backed a candidate in the primary season.
"I intend to put the environment front and center in this race because it is at the center of our lives," said Kerry. "I've worked on these issues all my life."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.