- The Washington Times - Monday, August 2, 2004

From combined dispatches

The Democratic presidential ticket did not profit from last week’s Boston convention and even slipped behind President Bush among likely voters, a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of likely voters showed yesterday.

The poll, taken on Friday and Saturday, showed Mr. Bush garnering 50 percent, compared with 47 percent for Democratic nominee John Kerry. Mr. Bush trailed the Massachusetts senator among likely voters earlier in July, 49 percent to 47 percent.

Among registered voters, Mr. Kerry received 50 percent to 47 percent for Mr. Bush, hardly an improvement over the 49 percent to 45 percent lead that Mr. Kerry had among registered voters earlier in the month.

The poll had a four-percentage-point margin of error.

A Newsweek poll released Saturday said Mr. Kerry had gained a four-point boost in the polls after the Democratic National Convention.

Mr. Kerry had been hoping that the convention would provide a measurable surge in public approval, or “bounce,” which sometimes has given nominees a double-digit boost in the polls after their four days in the spotlight.

Democrats this year have said the narrowly divided electorate and relatively small number of undecided voters made a big bounce unlikely.

Mr. Kerry said he wasn’t paying attention.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday” with his running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, he said he remembered last year, when polls showed his presidential bid staggering.

“Polls are not what’s important. What’s important is what we’re going to do for America,” Mr. Kerry said.

“I don’t read polls. I really don’t. They are going to go up and down. They’re going to change,” he added.

Mr. Kerry was on the campaign trail yesterday, talking more openly about his personal connection to God and guns, seeking support from conservative-leaning independent voters.

As his post-convention bus tour rolls through blue-collar and Republican-leaning districts, Mr. Kerry repeatedly has described how he began a lifetime of hunting and fishing as a young boy. And lately he’s been speaking in more detail about a faith that he and Mr. Edwards share in God.

“We’re running to be lay leaders, but there isn’t any way that you’re not affected by your fundamental values, the faith that brings you to the table,” Mr. Kerry said yesterday at Greater Grace Temple in Springfield, Ohio.

With Republicans portraying Mr. Kerry as an aloof Boston Brahmin, Mr. Kerry’s campaign is putting a bigger focus on the common touch — fishing and hunting, family and religion.

“I don’t wear my own faith on my sleeve, but faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday,” Mr. Kerry said as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday.

Mr. Kerry didn’t mention his interest in hunting in that speech, but he has been describing it on his post-convention bus tour through more conservative areas. In Greensburg, Pa., on Saturday, Mr. Kerry pointed out a small group of men wearing bright orange shirts that said “Sportsmen 4 Kerry.”

“I’ve been a fisherman since I was about 3 years old, 4 years old,” Mr. Kerry said. “Flung my first line out with my dad. I’ve been a hunter since I was about 12 years old, and I went through the whole progression, you know, BB gun to .22s to .30-.30, you name it.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat, said the gun vote could make the difference for Mr. Kerry in Pennsylvania.

“The fact that he is a hunter and handles guns so well, I think, is also very, very helpful,” Mr. Rendell said as he accompanied Mr. Kerry on stops in three Pennsylvania counties that favored Mr. Bush in 2000. “I’m cautiously optimistic. I think we should wind up winning by about four or five points.”

Mr. Kerry will face opposition from the 4-million-member National Rifle Association (NRA). A quarter of NRA members live in West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania, all potential swing states.

The NRA says Mr. Kerry usually votes against gun rights in the Senate, citing votes for extending the ban on assault-type weapons and for requiring background checks at gun shows. He also opposes granting gun makers immunity from civil lawsuits.

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