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Dean: Special interests have hold over Kerry

Ex-governor 'on treacherous ground,' senator's campaign says

Kerry wades through the crowd at a Montana campaign rally on Saturday.
John Kerry wades through the crowd at a campaign rally Saturday in Missouri.

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TUCSON, Arizona (CNN) -- Howard Dean lashed out Saturday at Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. John Kerry with some of the harshest rhetoric of the campaign, calling Kerry "another special interest clone."

Dean, a former Vermont governor, is trying to revive his struggling campaign days before voters in seven states choose Democratic presidential nominees.

Meanwhile, a CNN/Los Angeles Times poll of Democrats in Arizona, Missouri and South Carolina show Dean running no higher than third place among registered Democrats. The poll was completed Friday and released Saturday. (Poll: Three states, one question)

Dean said he was "outraged" and "furious" by a Washington Post report that Kerry has raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator during the past 15 years.

Kerry has made standing up to corporate lobbyists a central theme of his campaign.

"It turns out we've got more than one Republican in the race," Dean said. Dean has previously called retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme allied commander, a Republican.

Kerry, on a campaign swing Saturday through Missouri and Oklahoma, told reporters he has not taken money from lobbying groups, only individuals -- and that "Those guys have never, ever, ever gotten anything" in return.

"I'm the only person in the United States Senate who has been elected four times who has voluntarily ... refused to take any checks from political action committees or from the large interests," he said. Although individual lobbyists have contributed to his campaigns, he said, "If anybody in America thinks that a $1,000 contribution against 14 million in a campaign is somehow going to sway my vote, there's a level of cynicism about this."

A study by the Center for Responsive Politics shows Kerry has received more money from lobbyists than any senator, current or former, dating back to 1989, when the center first starting collecting the data. As of September 30, 2003, Kerry had received nearly $640,000, the group said.

The data list contributions from the trial lawyer lobby as coming from "lawyers" rather than "lobbyists."

A study from the same group showed Sen. John Edwards, who made his fortune as a trial attorney, has received much more in contributions from lawyers than any other senator, though he has been in the Senate only one term.

Dean, who was the national front-runner before placing third in the Iowa caucuses and second in the New Hampshire primary, seized on the Post report during a campaign stop in Tucson.

"We are not going to beat George Bush by nominating somebody who is the handmaiden of special interests," Dean said. "We are not going to beat George Bush with someone who has his hand as deeply in his pockets as George W. Bush.

"All that time that John Kerry was taking those hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists, we were getting 89 percent of our contributions from ordinary Americans and small donations. This is how you take the country back for ordinary people, not by nominating yet another special interest clone in Washington."

Speaking to reporters later, Dean accused his opponents of "pirating my message" while not abiding by their own words.

At the beginning of a speech Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri, Kerry attacked the Bush administration and President Bush's top political adviser, telling a crowd of several hundred that "Karl Rove's lobbyists" and "all those powerful interests" are getting access to the White House.

Kerry said as president he would issue an executive order banning anyone in government from working as a lobbyist for five years after leaving government service, and would make sure every meeting between lobbyists and public officials "is a matter of public record."

Kerry, Edwards lead polls

CNN and the Los Angeles Times published a poll Saturday showing three candidates in contention in Arizona, Missouri and South Carolina.

Kerry held his largest lead in Missouri, where 37 percent of respondents said they will vote for him. That was followed by 11 percent for Edwards and 7 percent for Dean. The sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

In Arizona, Kerry's lead was slimmer, with 29 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him. Clark received support from 22 percent of respondents and Dean followed with 13 percent. The sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Howard Dean: Still smiling but no longer leading in opinion polls.
Howard Dean: Still smiling but no longer leading in opinion polls.

In South Carolina, Edwards held the lead with 32 percent support, followed by Kerry's 20 percent showing. Clark was third with 8 percent of the vote. The sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

In addition to the polling data, Kerry's momentum continued to build Saturday when his campaign announced three more endorsements.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the largest newspaper in Missouri, will throw its support to the senator from Massachusetts on Sunday, the Kerry campaign said. Both Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Lt. Gov. John D. Cherry will announce their support for Kerry on Saturday -- one week before Michigan holds caucuses, the Kerry campaign said.

The Post-Dispatch endorsement will tout Kerry's "long experience, knowledge of world affairs, steadfastness in public life and a life story on national service and public valor," according to a copy provided by the Kerry campaign.

It will give Kerry a boost in a state that has been up for grabs since Rep. Dick Gephardt, a longtime congressman from Missouri, dropped out of the race after a poor showing in Iowa. Missouri has the most delegates -- 45 -- of any state choosing delegates Tuesday. South Carolina, Delaware, Oklahoma, Arizona and Missouri will hold Democratic primaries, and New Mexico and North Dakota will hold caucuses.

In all, 269 delegates are up for grabs 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 after victories in New Hampshire and Iowa, has 94 delegates.

Dean is leading in delegates despite Kerry's wins in Iowa and New Hampshire because 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)

All the candidates are fighting for as big a piece of the delegate pie as they can grab. Edwards, the senator from North Carolina who was born in South Carolina, has said he needs to win South Carolina.

He has focused much of his campaigning in South Carolina during the past week, but Saturday began a tour through several other states. At a stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Attorney General Patricia Madrid -- chairwoman of Edwards' New Mexico campaign -- told the audience of several hundred voters, "I looked at the electability of this man, and this is the one that can beat Bush."

He focused on his economic message of helping lift Americans out of poverty, reiterating his own story of growing up the poor son of a mill worker. He avoided attacks on his opponents, focusing on more positive messages that helped propel him to a second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

But he also took on Bush, saying, "He goes to a $2,000-ticket event; he has no idea what goes on in the real world."

Clark scheduled events Saturday in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma. He is hoping for a strong showing in Oklahoma, a neighbor to his home state of Arkansas, to keep his presidential ambitions alive.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, who came in fifth in Iowa, did not campaign Saturday, in keeping with his religious faith.

CNN's Kelly Wallace, Candy Crowley; Mike Roselli, Justin Dial and Robert Yoon contributed to this report.


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