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Democrats spend a final weekend polishing images Candidates prepare for debate tonight


MANCHESTER, N.H. -- When he is not blasting away at Democratic presidential opponents, Tom Harkin sometimes displays a kinder, gentler side.

Yesterday he took his wife, Ruth, and their children to a children's basketball game. Press secretary Lorraine Voles acknowledged that it was a photo opportunity intended to present a "family" image.

The Iowa senator is hoping that his good guy-bad guy tactics will propel him to at least a third-place finish in Tuesday's primary.

He and Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey were tied for third at 11 percent in a Boston Globe poll published yesterday. Former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas led Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, 32 percent to 25 percent, and former California Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. was at 5 percent.

Regardless of the polls and Tuesday's outcome, Mr. Harkin is planning to carry his campaign to South Dakota, Florida and other states, Ms. Voles said.

The five major Democratic candidates are scheduled to make their last joint appearance before the primary in a debate tonight sponsored by Cable News Network and the League of Women Voters.

Some of the candidates are cutting back campaign appearances to prepare for it.

Campaigning only during the morning yesterday, Mr. Tsongas told cheering supporters that "the issue here is very simple: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs."

"The Democratic Party must be the party of economic hope. But economic hope can only come from one thing -- economic truth," said Mr. Tsongas, who disdains middle-class income tax cuts and proposes business tax incentives to stimulate manufacturing.

Mr. Tsongas, once a very long shot, seemed elated, although tired. His eyes were red and puffy, perhaps from swimming, which he does regularly to dispel doubts about his recovery from cancer in the 1980s.

In a radio interview later, he said that senior citizens with incomes of more than $125,000 should pay higher Medicare premiums.

Mr. Clinton maintained one of the busiest schedules, with plans to visit a restaurant with his wife, Hillary, knock on voters' doors and attend two events in Nashua in the evening.

He has apparently halted his slide in the polls. As part of his strategy to counter allegations of marital infidelity and questions about his draft status during the Vietnam War, he bought a half-hour of television time Thursday night and again Friday to answer citizens' questions.

Mr. Kerrey, who lost part of a leg during the Vietnam War and won the Medal of Honor, planned a series of meetings with veterans. Today he and Max Cleland, the Georgia secretary of state, who is in a wheelchair as a result of Vietnam War injuries, were to hold a news conference.

Mr. Harkin, meanwhile, returned to negative form with fresh attacks on his opponents for supporting a free-trade agreement with Mexico.

He met reporters outside a factory in Dover that he said was going to close and transfer 230 jobs to Mexico. Plant officials couldn't be reached for comment.

"Bill Clinton, Bob Kerrey and Paul Tsongas all stood with President Bush in putting American jobs on the fast track to Mexico," Mr. Harkin charged.

Meanwhile, the candidates' supporters did their best to persuade voters.

Many waved placards at major intersections. Several dozen volunteers for Mr. Kerrey and Republican challenger Patrick J. Buchanan chanted at one another across a busy downtown street in Manchester.

Some came from other states. Julio Mojico of New York and John Parson of Connecticut canvassed door-to-door on Mr. Harkin's behalf. "We feel he has the best program for the working class," said Mr. Mojico, a United Automobile Workers union official who said he paid his own way to New Hampshire.

Minor candidates also contributed to the scene.

Millionaire businessman Jim Lennane, who is spending several hundred thousand dollars running for the Republican nomination, took off on a sidewalk stroll with his wife and a CNN camera crew.

"Here's a voter!" he exclaimed happily, pushing a brochure into the hand of a startled reporter who was passing by.

People sipping coffee at a Dunkin' Donuts shop were in for a surprise when a well-dressed, middle-aged woman burst in with a fistful of fliers proclaiming that Georgiana Doerschuck was a Republican presidential candidate. "You don't need a politician," her slogan goes. "You need a lover for president."

She left before anyone could question her credentials.

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