HAMPTON, N.H. (AP) Without revealing whether he'd been naughty or nice, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman climbed onto Santa's lap Sunday and revealed his holiday wish.
He asked for, what else? ''A better-than-expected finish in the New Hampshire primary.''
Lieberman, smiling, then told Santa he was a ''good man.''
As well-wishers gathered at The Old Salt Eating and Drinking Place laughed, Lieberman added, ''I don't know if that was totally presidential, but it seemed like the right thing to do.''
Will Lieberman get his wish? He is in single digits in state polls behind rivals Howard Dean, John Kerry and Wesley Clark and New Hampshire's presidential primary is Jan. 27, a little more than a month away.
Did he or didn't he?
Clark says Dean asked him to be Dean's pick for vice president. Dean's campaign manager says the subject ''never came up,'' which prompted an angry response Sunday from Clark's campaign.
Clark, in a taped appearance on ABC's ''This Week,'' said Dean, now the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, made the offer in September, before the retired Army general had decided to run for president.
Clark said it happened during a meeting with Dean ''and frankly ... and I told him, I said, 'I'm not really interested in even talking about it,''' Clark said.
Dean's campaign manager Joe Trippi denied an offer was made.
''That's not what happened,'' said Trippi, also appearing on ABC. ''We had a great relationship with him, talking about advice on the war and other things. ... But that never came up.''
In response, Clark's campaign suggested Trippi check the facts before commenting.
''Howard Dean did in fact offer Wes Clark a place on the ticket in a one-on-one meeting that Trippi did not attend,'' spokesperson Matt Bennett said. ''Joe Trippi shouldn't comment on meetings he wasn't invited to.''
A day after using colorful language to describe how he would respond to critics of his patriotism or military record, Clark's words have become part of an Internet fund-raising pitch.
''I'll beat the s- out of them,'' was his response to a questioner Saturday as he walked through the crowd after a town hall meeting in Derry, N.H. C-SPAN recorded the comment.
Now, www.GeorgiaForWesleyClark.com is using the retired Army general's words to raise money.
''When General Clark was asked how he would respond if anyone from the right-wing criticized his patriotism or military record, he responded in no uncertain terms: 'I'll beat the s- out of them,''' says the appeal on the group's Web site.
''Do you agree it's time to beat the ahem 'spit' out of the right wing? Well, show it by donating to our special 'Beat the Spit' fund-raiser! Every dollar raised will be categorized as a 'Beat the Spit' dollar, and will go to the 'Clark for President' campaign,'' the group says.
Clark's campaign in Little Rock, Ark., says the grass-roots group is unaffiliated with Clark's presidential effort. Officials from the organization could not be reached Sunday for comment.
Lieberman's campaign made sure to spread the word after the Connecticut senator picked up an endorsement from an unlikely source President Bush, the man Lieberman wants to replace in the White House.
The campaign sent e-mail around early Sunday alerting reporters to a brief Washington Post item on Bush's pro-Lieberman comments, which first appeared in The Australian, that country's national daily newspaper.
''When U.S. President George W. Bush visited Canberra in October, he told his friend (Prime Minister) John Howard that the Democratic candidate who, if he won the primaries, would be his most formidable opponent in the 2004 presidential election was Connecti-cut senator Joe Lieberman,'' the newspaper reported Thursday.
''What a fantastic irony it would be if the capture of Saddam Hussein this week led to the derailing of former Vermont governor Howard Dean's anti-war candidacy and Bush had to face the formidable Lieberman in November.''
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