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Published: Sunday, 1/18/2004

Limited following of Ohio s Kucinich is extremely loyal

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

DUBUQUE, Iowa - When Democrat Dennis Kucinich goes to count the percentage of Iowans who support his campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, he needs only one hand, and, at that, has a couple digits to spare.

But the Cleveland congressman still maintains, as he did in a speech to about 500 Democrats here yesterday, that he is the only one who can compete with President Bush in November.

“There are a lot of good candidates running for president, he said. “But mine is the only candidacy that can go toe-to-toe with George W. Bush and defeat him.

He made the comments as a three-day tracking poll conducted by Zogby International of 503 likely caucus-goers showed the race is a four-way statistical dead heat, with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry leading former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, 24 percent to 21 percent. Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt won 19 percent support, while North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had 17 percent.

The candidates canvassed the state yesterday, flipping pancakes and shaking hands as time for changing minds begins to run out before tomorrow s caucuses. Mr. Edwards also appeared at the event here, speaking out, like Mr. Kucinich, against the handling of the war in Iraq.

Mr. Kucinich has made it his main issue, calling it “a defining issue in the Iowa caucuses.” When he talks about the war, the pitch in his voice increases and he comes close to shouting, his arms thrashing the air around him.

He is almost as passionate when discussing his universal health-care program and a plan to spend billions rebuilding America s streets, highways, and bridges.

Though small in number, his supporters are loyal, sometimes traveling long distances to work on his campaign.

Janet Cedar Spring, a Minnesotan who had relocated to California to become a student in a “Zen monastery,” was working the crowd yesterday, passing out Kucinich flyers, signs, and issue statements.

Ms. Spring said she was on her way from California to volunteer in Mr. Kucinich s Cleveland campaign office and stopped in Iowa to help with the caucus campaign.

“I support him because I have never heard a candidate address the issues on a fundamental level like Dennis. Everyone else is on the surface. Other people are not willing to talk about root causes,” said Mimi Kennedy, a Hollywood actress who travels extensively on Mr. Kucinich s behalf.

She said she knows he won t win, but he still plays an important role in the campaign process “because he raises the issues.”



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