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Second-tier Democrats try to gain traction

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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - When you are a candidate for the 2008 presidential race only drawing about 2 percent support in opinion polls, you have to keep telling yourself that the race is still wide open and there is plenty of time to catch up.

That is the position in which Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, a veteran foreign policy heavyweight, finds himself, along with his fellow Democrats New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich , Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel.

All of them are hanging on for dear life to their campaigns, struggling for traction against the party's front-runners -- New York Sen. Hillary Clinton Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Some people say it is lonely at the top. Well, what about the bottom?

"Folks, I know it's hard and it requires some patience. This thing is wide open," said Biden, who made some forceful comments on Iraq, Iran and Sudan on Sunday at a debate among the Democratic White House contenders.

What about his 2 percent situation? "Our feeling is that as long as Iraq is the number one problem, whether it's New Hampshire or Iowa, we still have a major entree," said Biden's pollster, Celinda Lake.

There were no knockout punches in the debate, but each candidate's strategy was apparent. Clinton, as leader of the pack in the polls and in campaign financing, played it safe, talking of the need for a unified party on Iraq and directing fire at President George W. Bush.

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