msnbc.com
updated 1/27/2004 12:43:46 AM ET 2004-01-27T05:43:46

As New Hampshire Democrats and independents venture out in the frigid cold and snow to vote in their presidential primary, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry holds Demo Derby's lead over former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Did Kerry sit on a lead too long or did Dean run out of time to make a comeback after his third-place finish in Iowa?

Dean seemed spry and upbeat in the last hours of campaigning, with his senior aides saying Dean was winning back wavering Democrats who had almost abandoned him in the hours after his Iowa defeat.

An outright Dean win in New Hampshire would be yet another stunner — but perhaps we should get used to them in 2004.

The race for third in New Hampshire appears to be between Wesley Clark and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. If voters cast their ballots simply on pure oratorical ability, Edwards would win with ease. Clark still is learning how to be a stump speaker but Edwards is smooth and fun to watch. The two men will square in a do-or-die primary in South Carolina next week.

But don't count out Sen. Joe Lieberman, who has been inching ahead in some polls of New Hampshire voters. Lieberman ads airing on Manchester TV stations are pretty compelling. He needs a very strong performance in Manchester, where most of his voters are, to place third.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich stays in the race as a free-thinking gadfly and Rev. Al Sharpton is campaigning in South Carolina, hoping for solid support from the African-American voters who make up about 40 percent of the Democratic electorate there.

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