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Biting remarks on candidacy by `canine' on `Tonight Show'

BURBANK, Calif. -- With the kind of week Senator John F. Kerry is having, it only made sense that he appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" last night and wound up following a dog.

Well, a dog puppet, actually -- a foul-mouthed Rottweiler named Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who was the first guest on the show.

Andover native and "Tonight Show" host Leno, doing no favors for his home-state senator, egged on Triumph to assess Kerry's recent troubles -- the senator's difficulty exciting voters, his decision to fire his campaign manager this week, even the reality of playing second fiddle to a cigar-chomping puppet on late-night TV.

"What's wrong with this show -- John Kerry, a war veteran, has to follow a friggin' dog puppet?" Triumph said.

For Kerry's part, he was filmed arriving on a motorcycle -- a love of bikes he shares with Leno. He blew past a security guard and nearly hit a car.

Kerry made a crack about the "prominent manly chin" that he and Leno apparently have in common, then suggested that he would consider naming Triumph his running mate so that the dog could debate Vice President Dick Cheney.

When Leno asked Kerry how he would win the Democratic nomination, Kerry said he planned a sharp-edged attack on front-runner Howard Dean.

"We're coming at him now, and when I finish, I think he'll make a great surgeon general of the United States," Kerry said. Dean, a former governor of Vermont, is a physician.

Kerry cast his decision to fire campaign manager Jim Jordan in Red Sox terms, comparing himself to former manager Grady Little.

"Sometimes in the eighth inning," he said, "you have to go to the bullpen."

Kerry also contended that President Bush is not doing enough to support veterans, and repeated his calls for the United Nations to take over the nonsecurity responsibilities of rebuilding Iraq.

Aides to Kerry said he wouldn't mind having a little of the political magic that Leno seemed to sprinkle on actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who used a "Tonight Show" visit in August to announce that he planned to run for governor of California; two months later Leno was the warm-up act for Schwarzenegger's victory speech.

Leno called himself a "big fan" of Kerry, but made no campaign promises himself yesterday.

Patrick Healy can be reached at

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