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Campaign notebook

N.H. waiting on Michigan before setting its primary date

CONCORD, N.H. - Secretary of State William Gardner did not announce a date for New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary, even after the candidate filing period closed yesterday with the second largest field in history, 23 Democrats and 21 Republicans.

Gardner said his decision could come as early as next week and as late as Nov. 15, the day after the deadline for Michigan Republican and Democratic Party leaders to decide whether to change the date of their primary from Jan. 15.

Most observers expect Gardner to set Jan. 8 for the primary - five days after the Iowa caucuses - but he would not say. He could pick another date if Michigan, the last state expected to make a move, moves up its primary further. Under New Hampshire law, the primary must be scheduled at least seven days before any similar contest.

"It's all about Michigan," Gardner said.


McCain takes hard line
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - John McCain, a Vietnam War prisoner, argued yesterday that his three top rivals for the GOP nomination aren't qualified to deal with issues like torture - or to be a wartime president - because they never served in the military.

The Arizona senator's position on an interrogation technique that simulates drowning - he says it constitutes torture and is illegal - puts him at odds with Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson, who haven't taken such a hard line.

"There's a clear division between those who have a military background and experience in these issues and people like Giuliani, Romney and Thompson who don't - who chose to do other things when this nation was fighting its wars," McCain told reporters after touring a shipyard.

In Iowa, Romney said that while he respected McCain's service in Vietnam and in the Senate, his own service in the private, public and nonprofit sectors was "highly relevant to lead the nation at a time where we face such extraordinary challenges."

Aides for Giuliani and Thompson dismissed the criticism.

McCain questioned his rivals on their lack of military service even though he suggested during the 2004 election that military experience shouldn’t be an issue.


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