The Iceman Cometh: Kerry scores in New Hampshire

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Whether he wins the real New Hampshire primary will only be known tomorrow evening - but, this weekend, John Kerry won the photo-op primary by the ice hockey equivalent of a landslide.

Before 1,000 fans and at least 100 television cameras, the senator for Massachusetts swept on to the ice at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Coliseum in Manchester to show that if he's a bit stodgy on the stump, he's dynamite on the ice. "I'm in the worst shape I've ever been in my life," insisted Mr Kerry.

But as you watched the 6ft 3in, 60-year-old gliding around the arena on his practice skate, deftly controlling the puck and whipping in some wicked shots, the question arose: what would he be like if he was in shape? At that stage the senator was in breach of the rules by playing without a helmet - the better to show his trademark grizzled thatch.

All this was not just to demonstrate his sporting prowess. In this frozen corner of the US (minus 20C last night), ice hockey is the average Joe's pastime. What better way for Mr Kerry, multi-millionaire Boston Brahmin, to show he is one of the boys? Then the game proper started. With 2 minutes 12 seconds left in the first period, the patrician senator swept in a soft rebound to score. A cynic would cry fix - and certainly the other team didn't make much effort to stop the puck going in.

But who cared? As the candidate wheeled away, arms aloft in triumph, a lady in a back fur coat let out a joyous shriek: "That's why he's going to win on Tuesday."

With America's latest hockey star leading his closest rival 38 per cent to 25 per cent in a CNN poll yesterday, who's to say she's wrong?