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Posted on Mon, Feb. 02, 2004

Don't tell Kucinich he's in last place - He's in it for the long haul

Associated Press

No national press corps follows him around. Many a New Mexico rally garnered but a few hundred supporters. And his last-place front-page finish in a Sunday newspaper poll did him no good.

But don't tell Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich he's out of the running in Tuesday's New Mexico presidential caucus.

"This race is going to be full of surprises. But one thing people should not be surprised about: I'm staying in all the way," he said Sunday after meeting with about 40 campaign workers at his Albuquerque headquarters.

The Ohio congressman faces a steep challenge going into Tuesday's caucus in New Mexico, where only 2 percent of registered Democrats surveyed last week for an Albuquerque Journal poll said they would vote for him. The results were published in a story appearing in Sunday editions.

The only person to finish behind Kucinich in the poll was Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, who dropped out of the race last month after a fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. Gephardt remains on Tuesday's ballot.

Despite the polling finish - and regardless of the outcome in Tuesday's caucus - the progressive candidate whose platform centers on universal health care and a message of peace said he is determined not to drop out of the race.

In fact, the candidate says he's still relevant to the race and has "a strong base of support" here.

"(New Mexico) is one of those states where I might be able to do a little bit better than expected," he said. "I'm confident that we have a base of support that may not necessarily show up in the polls.

"People ask me, 'Can you be elected?' And what I tell them is, 'Yes. If you vote for me, I can.'"

Kucinich delivered his message of hope for campaign workers Sunday, saying he will win New Mexico because of his opposition to the war in Iraq. He told them Democrats need a candidate who can stand firm against President Bush's policies.

On Friday, Kucinich made appearances in Albuquerque, Las Vegas and Santa Fe, ending the night watching Santa Fe guitarist Tim Reynolds - who has toured with pop singer Dave Matthews - perform at the University of New Mexico.

There, he delivered an intense speech to more than 800 supporters, ranging from those in "I love THE KOOCH" T-shirts to older veterans wearing military hats and a young man sporting a bright orange Mohawk.

He started Sunday at an Islamic Festival at the University of New Mexico where he told attendees that, as president, he would work to rebuild relations between the Muslim community and the U.S. government.

The weary Kucinich then made one last stop in Albuquerque at his campaign's headquarters before heading north to Santa Fe, Espanola and Taos.

He thanked volunteers and told them their help in the next two days would be essential to winning the state.

He urged them to continue to attend events and get the word out about his campaign.

"All we have to do is show a little bit of movement here, and we can change the whole debate nationally," Kucinich said. "New Mexico becomes really important, and based on this theme of the land of enchantment, it's a place where magic can happen."

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