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Inside Politics

Candidates campaign ahead of Tuesday's primaries

From left, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, Al Sharpton and Wesley Clark interact in Greenville, South Carolina before Thursday night's debate.
From left, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, Al Sharpton and Wesley Clark interact in Greenville, South Carolina before Thursday night's debate.

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Stay with CNN-USA for frequent updates and live coverage of campaign news leading up to Tuesday's primaries and caucuses in seven states.
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CNN's Candy Crowely on the debate In South Carolina.
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Tuesday, February 3: Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, Delaware, South Carolina primaries; North Dakota and New Mexico caucuses

Saturday, February 7: Michigan and Washington caucuses

Sunday, February 8: Maine caucuses

Tuesday, February 10: Tennessee primary and Virginia primaries

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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South Carolina

(CNN) -- Democratic presidential candidates crisscrossed the country Friday, pushing into the final weekend of campaigning before seven states hold nominating contests Tuesday.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts fended off charges that he is soft on national security, insufficiently committed to affirmative action -- and even that he was using Botox to strike a younger look on the campaign trail.

"Ridiculous," said Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, who added that "there is nothing like Iowa and New Hampshire to make somebody look better."

Kerry, who leaped to the front of the Democratic field with wins in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, was accused Friday by rival Wesley Clark of trying to "fudge" his position on the use of racial considerations in hiring, education and contracting, which is known by its supporters as affirmative action.

In remarks to a mostly black audience in South Carolina on Friday morning, Clark said Kerry should "take responsibility" for comments he has made in the past about affirmative action. The retired general charged that Kerry called the programs "inherently limited" and "divisive."

Not so, replied Kerry, insisting that he has supported affirmative action in "every vote I've ever cast and every statement I've ever made publicly.

"He's trying to change what I said," Kerry said, noting that South Carolina's lone black congressman, James Clyburn, has endorsed him. In a statement, Clyburn defended Kerry and accused Clark of "negative attacks."

Kerry's past votes on national security matters were also savaged Friday by Ken Mehlman, President Bush's campaign manager, in a speech to the Republican National Committee.

Mehlman charged that Kerry tried to cut $8 billion from intelligence budgets during the 1990s, and that his proposals "were so reckless" that he couldn't find any co-sponsors in the Senate. Mehlman also said that when Kerry first entered the Senate in the mid-1980s, "he sought to cancel the very weapons systems that are winning the war on terror and maintaining our military strength." (Full story)

In a conference call with reporters, Kerry, decorated for his Navy service in Vietnam, said Republicans are "scared stiff" of his surging candidacy.

"That is why they are sending their attack dogs out," he said. "I am going to fight back."

Kerry picked up a key labor endorsement Friday from the Communications Workers of America, which represents more than 700,000 people. Labor support has been up for grabs since Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, the favorite of many unions, withdrew from the race after losing in Iowa.

Democratic sources also told CNN that Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is considering endorsing Kerry, although a Kerry campaign aide said it was "not done yet." Also, the Michigan Education Association, a union representing 157,000 teachers, threw its support behind Kerry.

Michigan holds caucuses on February 7, in which labor support will be a key.

Endorsements of Kerry by the MEA and Granholm could complicate efforts by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean to use the state's caucuses, and those in Washington state on the same day, to contain damage to his reeling campaign.

On Tuesday, five states -- South Carolina, Delaware, Oklahoma, Arizona and Missouri -- will hold Democratic primaries, and two others -- New Mexico and North Dakota -- will hold caucuses. In all, 269 delegates are up for grabs on Tuesday, about 12 percent of the 2,161 delegates needed to win the nomination at the Democratic National Convention on July 26.

Dean leads the Democratic delegate count with 113. Kerry, the front-runner in the race with his strong victories in New Hampshire and Iowa, has 94 delegates. To win the Democratic nomination, a candidate must have at least 2,161 delegates.

The reason Dean can have more delegates at this point -- while Kerry has led in the popular votes of Iowa and New Hampshire -- is that the nominating system includes 801 "super delegate" votes held by Democratic party leaders and elected officials. Those party figures who have endorsed Dean are super delegates and their votes, then, count in the delegate tally to date. (Where things stand: A delegates scorecard)

On the Republican side, Missouri and Oklahoma will also hold primaries Tuesday, though President Bush faces no serious opposition.

The latest polls show Kerry has built a lead in both Missouri and Delaware. The tightest Democratic primary races appear to be in South Carolina and Oklahoma, with Kerry, Clark and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina fighting for the lead.

South Carolina to be battleground

Edwards has said he must win in South Carolina, the state where he was born, to keep his White House bid going.

"I think it is going to be a very close dogfight here in South Carolina, and I feel good about it," he said in an interview with CNN on Friday evening. "I believe I need to win South Carolina, and I will win it."

Asked if a loss in the Palmetto State on Tuesday would force him from the race, he said, "I won't accept that proposition. I'm going to win."

Dean, trying to steady his wobbling campaign amid increasing signs he may be shut out Tuesday, took his campaign to St. Louis, where he wrapped himself in the aura of former President Truman, a Missouri political icon, to contrast himself with Kerry and his other rivals.

"Harry Truman was willing to do things that were extraordinarily unpopular because they were the right things to do," Dean said, noting that he opposed President Bush's education reform plan and the war in Iraq, while the other candidates voted for them.

"I don't think we're going to beat George Bush by trying to be like him," Dean said.

Dean aides said former Vice President Al Gore, who has endorsed Dean, may make campaign appearances with him this weekend.

Earlier, speaking to reporters in South Carolina, Dean charged that Kerry had not accomplished much in his nearly 20 years in the Senate and that "we need a doer, not a talker" as the party's nominee.

After losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Dean brought in Roy Neel, a veteran political operative close to Gore, to run his financially strapped campaign. Dean said Neel is trying to assess how much cash the campaign, which has raised more than $41 million, still has left to spend on primaries.

But Dean insisted Friday that he still has a "50-state campaign" and has field operations in the seven states that are voting Tuesday, even though he has not gone up with any advertising in those states since losing in New Hampshire.

Asked what he would do if he doesn't win anywhere Tuesday, Dean said, "You work and you work and you work."

"That is all I can tell you. The only one I really care about winning is the convention," he said.

Meanwhile, Edwards campaigned across South Carolina on Friday, ending the day with a benefit concert in Columbia, headlined by Hootie and the Blowfish, before leaving for New Mexico.

Asked at a campaign stop in Florence whether a victory in South Carolina would be diminished if Kerry does well in South Carolina and wins the night's biggest prize, Missouri, Edwards said, "Where I come from, if you win a basketball game 80-79, it counts."

After leaving South Carolina, Clark returned to Oklahoma, where he has been concentrating much of his attention in the run-up to Tuesday's primary. After finishing third in New Hampshire, polls show Clark, who grew up in neighboring Arkansas, may have his best shot for victory in the Sooner State.

Meanwhile, the man who finished fifth in New Hampshire, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, spent the day campaigning in Delaware, where he hopes to make a breakthrough Tuesday. He will be back in the state Sunday.

CNN's Frank Buckley, Candy Crowley, Justin Dial, Phil Hirschkorn, Mike Roselli, Steve Turnham and Kelly Wallace contributed to this article.

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