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Primary motives



Not only is Iowa critical for John Edwards, but also New Hampshire. He must win the Iowa caucuses, then clinch or come close in the New Hampshire primary to stay in the race. So far, though, Edwards is trailing badly in New Hampshire, where he ran a weak fourth in '04. Hillary Clinton is far ahead in the polls, with Barack Obama second. Still, Edwards recently arrived in the Granite State to some hopeful news.

Edwards received endorsements by the Iowa Council of the Service Employees International Union and the political arm of Friends of the Earth, the first major environmental group to weigh in on the Democratic field. FOE Action highlighted Edwards' unequivocal opposition to building more nuclear plants. He says they're too expensive compared with other non-carbon energy alternatives, while Clinton calls herself "agnostic" on nuclear power. According to the Los Angeles Times, she and Obama have supported federal "incentives"—money—to help utilities build more nukes.

A big issue in New Hampshire is its first-in-the-nation primary status. It's fiercely protected there, just as Iowa guards its first-caucuses position. And Democratic National Committee rules put Iowa and New Hampshire one-two in the batting order, with the Nevada caucuses and the South Carolina primary as three-four—the only other contests allowed to occur in January.

Florida's Republican legislature has already messed with that schedule, pushing its primaries to Jan. 29. However, the more grievous blow to DNC planning comes from Michigan, where Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, an all-but-announced Clinton supporter, signed a bill moving Michigan's primaries to Jan. 15.

Under DNC rules, presidential candidates are pledged not to "campaign or participate" in any caucus or primary—except the favored four—held before Feb. 5. Thus, five of the eight candidates withdrew from the Michigan ballot, including Edwards and Obama. But not Clinton. Along with Chris Dodd and Mike Gravel, she's kept her name on the ballot but contends that, since she's not going to "campaign" there, she's not "participating" either.

Given that Clinton signed the DNC pledge, "a legitimate question is raised," wrote political columnist John DiStaso in the Manchester Union Leader.

Edwards' campaign was among those denouncing Clinton for her decision. And New Hampshire state Sen. Peter Burling said this recent move is what people worry about with Clinton: "the lack of credibility which has come to dominate Washington politics."

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