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Analysis: Kerry goose hunt 'a guy thing'

By AL SWANSON, United Press International

John Kerry is hoping his good luck on a two-hour hunting trip in Springfield Township, Ohio, translates to the ballot box next month.

The Democratic presidential nominee said he bagged a goose with a borrowed 12-gauge shotgun while hunting with Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, on the Molnar Farm near Youngstown Thursday morning.

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Kerry on Saturday bought a non-resident hunting license and a special wetlands habitat stamp allowing him to hunt waterfowl at a country grocery store.

It's a guy thing. What Kerry really is hunting for is the votes of regular guys.

Kerry's highly publicized tromp through private farm fields in hunter's camouflage with a yellow Labrador Retriever at his side was followed by a meeting with Sportsmen for Kerry.

Pictures of Kerry, the sportsman, will play well in neighboring Michigan, where a Detroit News tracking poll showed the challenger trailing President George W. Bush for the first time in months. Bush had a 5-point lead -- 47 percent to 43 percent among respondents -- in a telephone survey of 400 likely Michigan voters conducted Monday and Tuesday.

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More telling, Bush had an 18-point lead among men, while Kerry was the choice of likely women voters by 7 points. However, the president's overall lead was within the survey's 5-point margin of error. The race for Michigan's 17 electoral votes will remain tight if no candidate reaches the 50-percent support level.

Michigan has lost nearly 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, and the state's 6.8-percent jobless rate in September was 1.4 percent higher than the U.S. unemployment rate.

Kerry was endorsed by 82-year-old former Republican Gov. William Milliken Monday in a statement highly critical of the incumbent.

"This president has pursued policies pandering to the extreme right wing across a wide variety of issues that has exacerbated the polarization and the strident, uncivil tone of much of what passes for political discourse in this country today," Milliken wrote.

In late September and early October, western Michigan ranked third behind Miami and Cleveland as the TV markets with the most presidential campaign ads, a study by the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project found.

The Kerry campaign considers battleground Michigan a must-win. Vice President Al Gore won Michigan and Wisconsin by slim margins in 2000, while Bush took Ohio.

A survey by the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation found 75 percent of Ohio's 1.3 million hunters and fishermen were likely voters, a group that may have cost Gore Ohio four years ago.

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Brendon Cull, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Coordinated Campaign, told the Youngstown Vindicator conservative groups like Ohio Sportsmen for Bush and the National Rifle Association, which recently endorsed Bush, "are in fits" over Kerry's credibility with sportsmen and hunters. He has owned a gun since he was 12.

"The only thing Senator Kerry is hunting today is the all-important sportsmen's vote," said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the hunting and recreational shooting-sports industry.

NSSF put out a release after Kerry bagged the goose -- ridiculing efforts to brand him as a gun-rights supporter. Kerry supported the expired assault-weapons ban, mandatory trigger locks and the Brady Bill, which mandates background checks for handgun purchases.

"Senator Kerry only plays a sportsman on TV. Away from the cameras, he would ban semi-automatic shotguns commonly used in hunting and recreational shooting enjoyed by millions of Americans," said Keane. "The senator's rhetoric and play-acting aren't fooling anyone. Kerry the 'hunter' is endorsed by radical anti-hunting organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Fund for Animals."

"That dog won't hunt," says an NRA brochure with a picture of a white poodle wearing a Kerry sweater. The pro-gun lobby's Political Victory Fund plans to spend $20 million on advertising to support the re-election of the president.

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"We intend to hold them to their vote and their action as opposed to their phony photo ops and their words," said NRA chief executive officer Wayne LaPierre.

Bush and Kerry appeared in battleground Iowa Wednesday, the second time both candidates have been in the state on the same day of the campaign. Bush attacked Kerry's liberal voting record in a wide-ranging 45-minute address at the North Iowa Fairgrounds in Mason City.

Kerry criticized Bush's rush to war in Iraq instead of stepping up the war of terrorism before 2,000 supporters at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo, Iowa.

Bush made his 12th trip to Wisconsin, where polls show him in a tight race with Kerry.

An American Research Group poll of 600 likely voters conducted Saturday through Tuesday had the race dead even at 47 percent. Ralph Nader had 2 percent, and 5 percent were undecided.

A poll of 623 likely voters by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute released Wednesday had Bush ahead 48 percent to 47 percent, with 2 percent for Nader and 3 percent undecided.

Progressives and activists who endorsed Nader in 2000, from actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon to Princeton University professor Cornell West, are urging Nader backers in swing states to vote for Kerry. RalphPlease.org asks visitors to pledge a donation to Public Citizen, a watchdog organization founded by the former consumer advocate, if Nader drops out of the race before Election Day.

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Former Nader backers are joining the Unity Campaign and MoveOn PAC to buy advertising in 11 swing states urging Naderites to "vote strategically."

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(Please send comments to nationaldesk@upi.com.)

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