While it is highly likely that Kerry will win New Hampshire and that Dean will place second, there is ample reason for John Kerry to be concerned. Just as he rose with a bonce upward in Bush's fortunes, he now begins to fall as those fortunes ebb. John Kerry is defined as stolid and stable, and a perfect choice for those who fear a Bush that is doing well.
But the Bush bounce is ending, and with it bleeds away the compelling fear that to "Beat Bush" requires a rock of a candidate.
The Bush Bounce began late in August, as the huge flood of money from defense spending hit the economy. The GDP numbers exploded upward, driven by construction and procurment. If you want to know why Bush is popular among white male Republicans, realize that a defense contractor on station at sea has a gross of about 10,000 per week because of hazard pay and bonuses.
This, combined with more favorable weather for allied troops - cooler means armor and armored infantry is less vulnerable - meant that it seemed "all of this is just going to pass". Angry, and energetically populist, politicians seem out of sync when many people are beginning to believe that the worst is behind them.
However, this bounce was both temporary, and false. Hiring has not picked up outside of areas directly being funded by borrow and squander policies - and technology is shipping jobs overseas as fast as they are created. The anger began building again, because the only thing worse than adversity, is prosperity that is clearly distributed as a political favor.
With the ebbing of the Bush bounce, and the more cautious Dean campaign - Kerry looks less compelling by definition.
Further, he could not handle prosperity. Given a chance at the microphone, he could not answer the tax question. He could not articulate a vision. Dean comes back, because Dean, while he does not quite have a vision, does have a momentum vector: erase Bush's legacy.
If one wants a prediction, many voters are going to go in thinking Kerry, and not be able to do it, the third place tier will get a second wind. Because while "Beat Bush" has its own logic, Kerry's peculiar lack of energy does not speak to that urgency.