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Democrats said commercials by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have also had an impact on Mr. Kerry’s campaign and repeated their calls on Mr. Bush to condemn the ads.

Mr. Bush and other White House and campaign officials have condemned all ads by so-called 527 groups, and filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to regulate such group’s fund raising.

Democrats say the poll numbers will get closer as the election approaches, and Republicans agreed.

“Now, will this race begin to turn back to much closer? Yes, it will. By the time we get to debates, this race will be much closer. But I do think there’s been a fundamental shift,” Mr. Dowd told Fox.

Ken Mehlman, Mr. Bush’s campaign manager, agreed.

“Obviously, this is going to be a close election; we’ve always said it would. Where it settles out, we don’t know,” Mr. Mehlman said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said Mr. Kerry “fumbled” because Republicans had presented a plan for the future and Mr. Kerry has not.

The convention was the “first chance we had to lay out the president’s case, and it was a very powerful one,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”

With 56 days remaining until Election Day, the Democrats’ top official took issue with polls showing a Bush lead and vowed Mr. Kerry would stay on the offensive for “60 days straight” — although the Democratic candidate took yesterday off.

“Those numbers will begin to settle down when people begin to focus and, as you know, many people are not going to focus until some time in October,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said yesterday in a conference call with reporters.

“I really don’t care about head-to-head polls; what I care about are polls in the battleground states,” Mr. McAuliffe said, adding that Mr. Kerry is in “very good shape” in the polls he has seen in Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire.

The Bush administration has been “an abject failure on every single issue,” Mr. McAuliffe said.

“He can give a nice speech at his convention and make a lot of promises, but they are empty promises and George Bush has been AWOL the last four [years] on issues that matter to the American family,” he said.

• Joseph Curl contributed to this report.