The Note

Kerry: Senator Kerry is being forced to square his Iraq vote with his criticism of the administration's handling of the war, says the New York Times ' Halbfinger, who Notes Kerry needed 40 minutes to arrive "at a somewhat simple formulation" of his own view.

(We ask, what should we take from the Times ' graphic charting Kerry's Iraq position?)

A Kerry supporter sums up his candidate's challenge very well: "His biggest problem is Iraq — that he can't explain his position in two sentences," said Dan Caligari, a longtime New Hampshire campaign organizer who is backing Mr. Kerry. LINK

Knight Ridder's Steven Thomma reports that Senator Kerry's numbers are looking better in New Hampshire. "Aides and analysts credit three reasons: He rolled out an earlier-than-expected endorsement from former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, is spending far more time in the state and is sharpening his often obtuse speaking style." LINK

Former Ambassador Wilson endorsed Kerry yesterday. Here's the Boston Herald LINK; the New York Post LINK; and the Manchester Union-LeaderLINK.

From ABC News' Kerry campaign reporter Eva Price:

"I'm halfway between puberty and paralysis, so I do what I do?" Words to live by? Yes! And also a direct quote from 'Red Henton', the minstrel who welcomed Maquoketah's (Iowa) Kerry supporters to the belated birthday party of Iowa State Senator Roger Stewart on Thursday.

A boisterous crowd gathered for the second time this month to honor both State and U.S. Senator; the latter had to cancel the original party 10 days ago in order to vote on the $87 billion package for Iraq. Stewart is one of more than a dozen and half state legislators backing Kerry in January's Caucus, say campaign officials."

"But the crowd would have waited 100 days if it meant being near John Kerry for an hour, it seemed. In what campaign officials are calling a politically significant night, three other State Senators were on hand sounding the beat to a new drum of personal and political support that the Boston Brahmin is finally getting throughout the Hawkeye state."

"Clearly feeling comfortable in an atmosphere full of admiration, Senator Kerry confidently shouted to the crowd, 'Roger Stewart and his wife have a wonderful marriage … They're both in love with the same man!'"

"And to the tune of a '50s commercial jingle, Mr. Red Henton melodically ended the night … In Montana, Illinois or up in Maine … doo doo doo … We're gonna sum it up … doo doo doo … or from any state you name … doo dooh … Pennsylvania or New Hampshire or from Frisco's Golden Gates … doo dooh … , Your average studs or dames … .he's gonna treat us all the same. Dooh..Dooh..he'll be a voice for us all right away, he'll be there for all of us … .. right … a … way … doo doo dooh!! "

"The Kerry confidence quotient in Iowa seems to be rising. The Senator hit Dubuque, Iowa late at night for a private RON at the Dubuque Inn. And to the complete surprise of the Kerry Campaign, 50 activists and precinct workers greeted the tired Senator. Press Secretary David Wade said "it was very emotional. It fired up a tired candidate at the end of a long, long day."

A recent internal poll by the Mellman Group shows Kerry tied with Gephardt in Iowa at 21% and Dean just ahead of them both at 24%, with a 4% margin of error. LINK

Edwards: Although there is a discrepancy over the exact figures, it is clear that Edwards is the top spender thus far in both Iowa and New Hampshire. LINK

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