updated 12/12/2003 1:26:11 AM ET 2003-12-12T06:26:11

ABC News says it will stop having producers travel full time with the presidential campaigns of Carol Moseley Braun, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton.

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The network says it’s a routine coverage decision, but it has angered Braun and Kucinich — particularly after the Ohio congressman had a testy exchange with ABC News’ Ted Koppel during Tuesday’s debate in New Hampshire.

ABC said the change was designed to better deploy forces for the upcoming Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. The producers who had been traveling with the three candidates will continue to follow the campaigns by phone.

Even if these candidates don’t frequently make it on the air on ABC News, the producers assigned to them contribute to “The Note,” a widely read Internet newsletter devoted to presidential politics.

NBC News, a part-owner of MSNBC.com, has "Campaign Embeds" assigned to follow each of the nine candidates, filing both on-air and Web reports. CBS monitors each campaign, but does not have a full-time staffer with each.

“I don’t think ABC should be the first primary,” Kucinich said while campaigning Thursday at New England College. “The first primary should not be on a television network.”

Braun, following a forum at Concord High School in New Hampshire, said she was sorry to hear ABC News’ producer was leaving.

“If they don’t want to help me get my message out, then I’ll have to find alternative ways to do it,” she said. “I think it is a terrible commentary, however, on the state of the media, frankly, if their idea of a democracy is only relating to those candidates who have the most money.”

Kucinich criticized Koppel during Tuesday’s debate for beginning with a question about Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean. Later, he was angered when Koppel asked whether he, Braun or Sharpton are “in this as sort of a vanity candidacy.”

Kucinich replied that he “may be inconvenient for some of those in the media but, you know, I’m sorry about that.”

On Thursday, he noted ABC’s coverage decision and his criticisms during the debate, saying “it appears ABC may have taken it personally.”

ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said the coverage decision was made before the debate. “The decision to bring some producers back to New York so they can concentrate on the upcoming New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucus is a routine coverage decision,” Schneider said.

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