updated 2/26/2004 7:07:40 PM ET 2004-02-27T00:07:40

John Edwards’ Democratic presidential campaign is nearly invisible in New England, which isn’t surprising, given that the region is home turf for rival John Kerry of Massachusetts.

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But while Kerry is considered the strong favorite in the Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island primaries next Tuesday, he’s hardly spent a lot of time campaigning in those states in recent months.

Vermont also has a primary Tuesday, and the contest could hand Howard Dean, the state’s former governor, his first primary win although he dropped from the presidential race last week.

Instead, Massachusetts Sen. Kerry and Edwards have focused their time on the delegate-rich states of California, New York and Ohio, three of 10 states that vote next week on what’s known as Super Tuesday.

There are just 178 pledged convention delegates at stake in the four New England primaries combined, only slightly more than the 140 available in Ohio. California has 370 delegates.

Neither has campaigned there
Neither candidate has appeared publicly this year in any of the four New England primary states, though Kerry was home in Boston for some private relaxation time around Valentine’s Day. And neither planned to visit before Tuesday.

The only notable campaigner making an appearance north of New York state in the next few days is Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. She is to raise money and meet supporters Sunday in Greenwich and Stamford, Conn.

Edwards spokeswoman Kim Rubey acknowledged Kerry’s regional advantage, but said the North Carolina senator was focused on winning as many delegates as possible.

“New England is Senator Kerry’s back yard,” Rubey said. “But despite Senator Kerry’s home-court advantage we have a tremendous amount of support in New England and we expect to pick up a significant number of delegates.”

She wouldn’t predict a win in any of the contests.

In Massachusetts, there is virtually no contest: Forty-nine percent of those surveyed in a recent poll chose Kerry as the next president. A Rhode Island poll gave the Boston native 70 percent of the vote, compared to Edwards’ 9 percent.

“We’ve been ignored by virtually every other candidate,” complained Jane Lane, the Massachusetts Democratic Party spokeswoman. “Some just wrote the state off. If you have limited resources, why waste them on a state where it’s a given.”

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