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Inside Politics

Kerry makes another comeback

Momentum in New Hampshire, after Iowa victory

By Bill Schneider
CNN Political Unit

Kerry
Sen. John Kerry has a history of overcoming adversity.

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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - Everybody's talking about the Kerry miracle, the Kerry surge. But for us, it's the Kerry Play of the Week.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has a theme -- overcoming adversity.

It goes back to the Vietnam War, where Kerry served courageously.

"He could have been shot and killed at any time. And so could have I. So I figured I owe this man my life," said Jim Rassman, a former Green Beret who served with Kerry in Vietnam.

And Kerry, one of seven Democrats seeking his party's presidential nomination, courageously opposed the war when he returned home.

"We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service," Kerry said in 1971.

Last year, Kerry survived cancer and when he got into the presidential race, he looked like the Washington insider. His campaign was tanking in New Hampshire -- a state he had to win.

Just last month, Kerry was politically flat on his back. But he was determined.

"I'm very confident that the next days are going to prove this election is only starting," said Kerry in December.

So he went to Iowa to jump-start his campaign and it worked -- brilliantly.

"Thank you, Iowa, for making me the 'Comeback Kerry,' " he said after his victory in the Iowa caucuses on Monday.

Sort of like another popular come-from-behind story. Think back to the hit summer movie "Seabiscuit," the story of a horse who beat the odds to win over a favored competitor.

"All of a sudden John Kerry, who looked like the front-runner and the establishment figure, was transformed into being Seabiscuit, the come-from-behind horse," said CNN "Crossfire" co-host Paul Begala.

New Hampshire voters took another look at Kerry -- especially women, who are powering Kerry's surge in the Granite State.

Democratic men in New Hampshire favor Kerry by eight points.

Women give Kerry a 16-point lead.

What do women see in Kerry?

"He's dashing and he's a former military hero, so you know it has the kind of Sean Connery-James Bond appeal. You know, "Officer and a Gentleman' appeal," said a young female voter in New Hampshire.

Kerry offers security -- like President Bush.

"He talks about his Vietnam experience," explained Begala. "He relates his stories of remarkable heroism, and the implied message in all of that is: 'I'll keep you safe.'"

So if Kerry is Seabiscuit,' what does that make Bush?

"Bush is War Admiral," added Begala, referring to the favored horse in the summer movie . "Bush has all of the advantages."

But it's Kerry who has the political Play of the Week.

Democrats want to run on domestic issues -- jobs and health care. But first, they have to match Bush on national security.

That's what they believe Kerry can do.


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