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Kerry works on speech to launch bid

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Facing a pivotal moment in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, John Kerry worked until the last minute on the speech Tuesday that will formally launch his candidacy. The 11th-hour move exposed the divisions within his own team over the campaign's direction.

Once considered the front-runner, Kerry now trails Howard Dean in New Hampshire and is bunched at the top of the field with Dick Gephardt and Dean in Iowa. Dean has gained traction with his anti-Washington establishment campaign, which has proven costly for lawmakers such as Kerry and Gephardt.

Dean's surge has revealed a split among Kerry's advisers, with some aides calling for aggressive tactics while others urge caution, fearing that harsh attacks would alienate the new voters Dean has attracted to the Democratic Party.

Kerry dismissed the poll results, saying "they don't mean anything today."