Kucinich campaigns in Portsmouth
Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio speaks with Seacoast residents during a campaign stop at the RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth on Sunday.(Photo/Matthew Tetrault)

PORTSMOUTH -- Dennis Kucinich may want voters to start taking his presidential ambitions seriously, but he still likes to joke about his underdog status.

"I know the media has already figured out who the next president is," he said with a smirk and a shake of his head. "It's comforting. That way, we don't even have to vote."

The congressman from Ohio and contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination met with Seacoast residents during a visit to the RiverRun Bookstore. There, he detailed his positions on the war in Iraq, immigration and other key issues.

Kucinich is no stranger to campaigning in the Granite State. His first attempt at the Democratic nomination came in 2004, when he called for removing U.S. troops from Iraq, ending the war on drugs, and creating a universal health-care system. His poll numbers in New Hampshire were less than stellar; he placed six out of seven among Democratic candidates with approximately 1 percent of the vote.

This year, however, Kucinich hopes his consistent anti-war stance will strike a chord with voters who, according to recent public opinion polls, are becoming increasingly outspoken against the war in Iraq.

Kucinich's Iraq plan calls for an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops and the implementation of an international peacekeeping force. Other parts of the plan include making reparations to the Iraqi people for pain and suffering, and creating a process of national reconciliation between the country's different religious factions.

Several audience members raised questions about Kucinich's willingness to pursue impeachment against President Bush. He acknowledged that it was an option, but expressed concern that it would take focus away from the war.

"This administration has broken international law, there's no question about it, and (it) must be held accountable," he said. "The question is whether you cross that threshold into impeachment. You have to give it a lot of thought."

Kucinich also laid out talking points for his immigration policy. If elected, his policy would include reforming current laws, making it easier for illegal aliens to obtain legal citizenship along with correcting problems he believes are caused by America's involvement in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization.

"We're not going to build Fortress America' where we fear the world," he assured listeners.

Audience members were largely receptive to Kucinich's statements, most expressing cautious optimism about his chances this year, despite a crowded Democratic primary.

"I think the people here are finally ready to hear what he has to say," said Dotti Anderson of Massachusetts.