updated 12/15/2003 10:49:10 AM ET 2003-12-15T15:49:10

Howard Dean has extended his lead over John Kerry in New Hampshire to 23 points and is widely seen by Democrats in the state as the candidate with the best chance of defeating President Bush, according to a poll.

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The poll, conducted by KRC Communications Research for the Boston Globe and WBZ-TV, found that 42 percent of likely voters in the New Hampshire primary would vote for Dean. Kerry had 19 percent and Wesley Clark 13 percent while 8 percent were undecided. Other Democratic hopefuls polled in single digits.

About 47 percent said Dean is the strongest Democrat to go against Bush, compared to 15 percent for Kerry and 10 percent for Clark. Nearly 60 percent of voters surveyed expect Dean, the former governor of Vermont, to be the party’s eventual nominee.

About 20 percent said they were more likely to vote for Dean because of an endorsement from former Vice President Al Gore.

The poll of 400 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted Dec. 10-11, just after Gore’s endorsement of Dean but a few days before U.S. soldiers captured former Iraq President Saddam Hussein. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

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