Democrats find it's tough to stand out

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[New Hampshire] Gigi Brienza was among the 150 treated to Wesley Clark wearing an "Elect the cook" apron at a pancake breakfast held at George F. Mayfield VFW hall Post 772 on Jan. 3. "I've seen Dean, Edwards and Clark in a weekend," she said excitedly. But Ms. Brienza's vote won't help any of those presidential candidates, at least not in the New Hampshire primary. She's a New Jersey resident.

The influx of the out-of-state curious swelled turnouts and underscored the interest in the New Hampshire primary as Democratic candidates descended upon the Granite State last week to shake hands with voters and build their brands.

The candidates' image-making on the road ranges from the grand statement, through stunts like Clark's apron, to the more mundane. Sen. John Kerry, for example, travels in a red, white and blue Real Deal Express bus while Clark doles out small blue cards and repeatedly during his speech asks supporters to fill them out with names and addresses.

There are snappy slogans aimed at attracting folks to the candidates' public appearances-a Cup of Joe with Joe, Conversation with Clark, Eggs and Politics. And they seem to be working. In an appearance at Portsmouth's North Church, Mr. Clark's campaign drew 600, the largest yet for the candidate, and enough to hastily move the venue from the originally scheduled basement room to a larger assembly hall.

Mr. Clark's people start his roadshows by screening his "American Son" film. When the general comes out he is wearing casual sweaters rather than his uniform-because, The New York Times says, women are turned off by the military regalia.

Howard Dean's appearances were even splashier, including an entrance via a raised curtain and a short film featuring former Vice President Al Gore.

Less glamorously, Sen. Joseph Lieberman prospected for votes at the pink-ceiling Tilton Diner, which makes its own root beer and has its own slogan-"More than a diner, a way of life."

All the candidates get to enjoy at least pockets of enthusiastic support, but it's unclear whether all are managing to get their individual brands across. "I'd vote for whoever gets the [Democratic] nomination," said Ralph Antorelli, at a Clark event. Jerry Izikoff, an attendee at a Lieberman event, says he would vote for anyone but Bush.

"Would I vote for Bush? Oh my God, no. I would vote for any Democrat over Bush," said a woman at a Kerry event, who declined to give her name.

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