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The Morning Grind / Political Hot Topics

Dead heat

Senators John Kerry and John Edwards are forcing a tight race in Iowa, as polls show them gaining on longtime front-runners Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt.
Senators John Kerry and John Edwards are forcing a tight race in Iowa, as polls show them gaining on longtime front-runners Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt.

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UPCOMING PRIMARIES

Monday, January 19: Iowa caucuses

Tuesday, January 27: New Hampshire primary

Tuesday, February 3: Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina primaries; New Mexico Democratic caucus; Virginia Republican caucus

When is your primary? For more key dates in the 2004 election season, see our special America Votes 2004 Election Calendar
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Check out the links below to hot political stories around the country this morning.

• DEAD HEAT: Polls on Thursday showed John Kerry and John Edwards have closed to within striking distance of Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt, making the final three days of the campaign critical and prompting a late round of attacks. But all of the campaigns stressed how difficult it is to gauge support in the caucuses, where many Democrats remain uncommitted to a single candidate. Most polls are based on registered voter lists, which do not include new voters who register for the first time on caucus night.

The Des Moines Register: Top four in virtual tie, latest polls showexternal link

• TURNOUT PREDICTION: Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver on Thursday predicted a record turnout at Monday's first-in-the-nation Democratic caucuses as county officials around the state reported strong interest in the meetings.

The Des Moines Register: Record turnout expectedexternal link

• THE UNDECIDEDS: Many Democratic officials and campaign strategists say they suspect that the way undecided voters break on Monday night could well prove a decisive factor in the caucuses -- if not anointing the winner, then determining the crucial order of finish among the top four candidates as the campaigns sprint toward New Hampshire for the primary a week later.

The New York Times: Iowa hopefuls wrestle with a great unknown: The choice of the undecidedexternal link

• BUSH'S IOWA CAMPAIGN: Rep. Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican, kicked off Thursday a slate of campaign appearances over four days in western and central Iowa to promote President Bush. The events are aimed at putting before the public what he says is a positive alternative to the Democrats' negative message.

The Quad-City Times: Nussle kicks off Bush 2004 campaignexternal link

• DEAN DOWN: A barrage of criticism from his rivals appears to have taken a dramatic toll on Dean's advantage in New Hampshire, and Wesley Clark is benefiting from questions about whether the former Vermont governor is the best candidate to handle the war on terrorism, according to a new Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll.

The Boston Globe: Dean slips, Clark gains in N.H.external link

• CLARK IN THE CROSSHAIRS: Rising in a New Hampshire poll to nearly a dead heat with Dean, Clark yesterday came under fire from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, and from Democratic rivals charging him with a lack of consistency on the Iraq war.

The Manchester Union Leader: Clark finds himself in the cross hairsexternal link

• CAN YOU BEAT BUSH?: Electability, one of the most-bandied of buzzwords on the lips of political pundits these days, is emerging as one of the most compelling issues on the minds of Democratic voters across the nation and particularly in New Hampshire as they prepare to cast the first ballots of the 2004 presidential race.

The Chicago Tribune: Voters keep asking: Who can beat Bush?external link

• CAROL HEADED TO S.C.?: While Carol Moseley Braun ended her long-shot presidential campaign yesterday, she vowed to remain a visible figure on Dean's behalf and could play a cameo role in South Carolina's primary and among women and African-American voters elsewhere.

The Chicago Tribune: Braun drops out, but she vows to play role for Deanexternal link

• SCTV: Edwards and Joe Lieberman unveiled TV and radio spots in South Carolina this week targeting voters concerned about the economy and faith and values. Lieberman on Thursday announced four new 60-second radio ads featuring black leaders while Edwards' TV ad emphasizes his plans to protect working- and middle-class families. He also is running a biographical ad about growing up in a small S.C. mill town.

The Columbia State: Lieberman, Edwards debut TV, radio adsexternal link

• THE CLINTON LEGACY: As a moderate Democrat seeking out independent voters in a still wide-open race for New Hampshire's January 27 primary, Lieberman has a political profile resembling that of the man who preceded him as head of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, and who won his party's nomination, and eventually the presidency, in 1992. Lieberman is far from the only Democrat seeking to glean a boost from Clinton, who has not endorsed a candidate.

The Washington Post: Lieberman campaign takes page from Clinton's successexternal link

• BLACK ARTS: Clark communications adviser Chris Lehane is such a shrewd practitioner of what one admiring strategist called "the political black arts" that lately, when a negative story appears, rivals point to him. Lehane has become a target in a fight among Democrats about whether opposition research is going too far.

The New York Times: Clark's rivals irked by campaign aide's tacticsexternal link

• GORE'S SALVO: Former vice president Al Gore called President Bush "a moral coward" yesterday for allegedly tailoring his policies on global warming and other environmental and energy matters to benefit his allies in the coal, oil and mining industries. In a stinging assessment of the president's environmental record, Gore criticized Bush for reneging on his 2000 campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas blamed by many scientists for Earth's rising temperature, and for launching a "totally meaningless" voluntary program after disavowing a 1997 international accord negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, that imposed mandatory emissions cuts.

The Washington Post: Gore calls Bush a 'moral coward'external link

Compiled by Mark H. Rodeffer


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