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Inside Politics: Democrats’ pre-convention approval rating at 20-year low

Americans view Democrats and Republicans with near-equal skepticism going into this year's party conventions, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released Wednesday.

The poll found that just 43 percent of registered voters have a favorable view of the Democratic Party, down 11 points from 2008 and its worst pre-convention rating since Gallup began taking the survey in 1992.

The GOP is doing only slightly better, with 44 percent approval, which is 3 points better than in 2008.

The poll showed that voters' impressions of both parties gradually have worsened since 1992, when Democrats and Republicans had approval ratings of 54 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

Democrats' previous lowest rating was 48 percent in 2004, which along with 2012 are the only years over the 20-year span in which they were viewed less favorably than Republicans at the start of convention season.

ELECTIONS

One-third of doubted voters found to be U.S. citizens

DENVER — Nearly one-third of people whose citizenship and right to vote were questioned by Colorado's secretary of state are U.S. citizens, election officials said Wednesday, though the status of a majority of them remains undetermined.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican, sent letters this month to nearly 4,000 people questioning their citizenship as part of a plan to have them voluntarily withdraw or confirm their eligibility to vote.

State officials were able to run 1,400 of those names through a federal immigration database and found that more than 1,200 were U.S. citizens. So far, they have found none who is a non-citizen and is registered to vote.

Martha Tierney, an attorney for the Colorado Democratic Party, told election officials during a meeting Wednesday that they were wasting their time on a small group of voters. "This is a witch hunt and you should be embarrassed that you're going down this road," she said.

Mr. Gessler's office plans to release updated figures Thursday detailing how many of the 4,000 people responded directly to affirm their citizenship or withdraw their voter registration. He said no further action will be taken involving people who did not respond to the letters. 

FLORIDA

Rubio: Both parties need to improve with Hispanics

TAMPA — Sen. Marco Rubio says both political parties need to do more to address the needs of Hispanic Americans.

The Florida Republican was reacting to comments from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who said the array of Hispanic speakers at the GOP convention isn't enough for Mitt Romney to woo Latino voters.

Mr. Rubio, who will formally introduce Mr. Romney before he accepts the GOP presidential nomination, says Republicans can't just be the anti-illegal-immigration party, they have to be the "pro-legal-immigration party."

He told ABC's "Good Morning America" there are problems with Obama's decision to stop deporting younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Mr. Romney has promised to change that strategy but has not specified how.

Polls have shown Mr. Romney struggling to gain traction with Latino voters.

CAMPAIGN

Secret Service agent leaves gun in Romney plane's toilet

A Secret Service agent left a gun in the bathroom of a plane carrying Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

A reporter discovered the gun while the plane was flying from Florida to Indiana on Wednesday. It was quickly retrieved by a Secret Service agent. The weapon belonged to an agent assigned to Mr. Romney's security detail.

In Washington, Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said the agency is aware of the incident and that the matter will be handled internally. He would not discuss who left the gun or how it was misplaced.

The agent involved was not on the afternoon flight to Tampa, Fla., the site of the Republican National Convention. Mr. Romney is scheduled to accept the presidential nomination Thursday.

STATE

Visa ban waived for official visitors from Myanmar

The Obama administration has taken another step in unraveling tough U.S. sanctions against Myanmar by waiving a visa ban to promote engagement with its reformist government.

The White House announced the step Wednesday, ahead of a visit next month to New York by President Thein Sein to the U.N. General Assembly.

Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said it is not a blanket lifting of the ban, and the U.S. still will screen Myanmar officials for evidence of complicity in gross human rights abuses.

The ban covers officials of the former ruling junta, the military and those who lend it financial support.

The U.S. has already restored full diplomatic relations and suspended investment sanctions to reward Myanmar for shifting from decades of authoritarian rule. It already has allowed some U.S. visits by officials.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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