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Kerry Sharpens Differences with Bush  - 2004-09-07

The latest public opinion polls indicate Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is trailing President Bush by between seven and 11 points with eight weeks to go until Election Day. Senator Kerry is trying to close the gap.

Senator Kerry has gotten more aggressive in his rhetoric in recent days, hammering away at the president for his handling of Iraq and a host of domestic issues including the economy, health care and the environment.

This was his message to African-American supporters in Cleveland, Ohio.

"It all comes down to one letter, W. George W. Bush," he said. "What do you think that W. stands for? That W. stands for wrong! Wrong direction, wrong choices, wrong priorities, wrong judgment for our country!"

Democrats are eager to defeat President Bush in November and some have become disheartened by recent polls showing a surge of support for the president since the Republican Convention.

Jerry Weller attended a Kerry rally outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He predicts the urge for change is so great that Democrats will rally behind Senator Kerry in November.

"I am very disappointed with the last four years," he said. "I am unhappy and we need a huge change. This is the right man."

In order to win, Senator Kerry needs a strong turnout of voters that have traditionally supported Democratic candidates, especially African-Americans and members of labor unions.

Sheila Pritt listened to a Kerry speech at a mine workers rally in West Virginia. She and other teachers will be doing grass roots organizing for the Kerry campaign right up until Election Day.

"I think he [Kerry] is the one," she said. "Bush does not have a chance in West Virginia this year. I am not sure why he got in four years ago. It wasn't because of me. I think Kerry has an excellent chance of winning and that is who we are for."

West Virginia is one of 18 so-called battleground states where the November election is expected to be close.

Most of the voters at Kerry rallies indicate that jobs and health care are their top concerns and that is why Mr. Kerry spends so much time in his speeches talking about domestic problems and his proposals to solve them.

"And I am on Medicare and I need the Medicare bills [paid for] and I need Social Security," says Rhona Cook, a retiree living in Cleveland. "All the things that he is talking about are some of the things that I need."

Democrats insist that Senator Kerry's efforts to sharpen his criticism of the president, particularly on domestic issues, will eventually close the gap in the polls.

But the new Kerry focus on domestic issues could be risky. A new USA Today-CNN-Gallup Poll found that terrorism has become as important as the economy in this election. The Gallup survey also found that voters prefer the president's handling of terrorism by a margin of 27 points.