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Kerry Courts Core Supporters Two Days before US Presidential Election


Democratic Party presidential nominee John Kerry charged into the final two days of the U.S. race for the White House Sunday focusing on solidifying his core supporters in so-called battleground states where public opinion surveys show the contest is extremely close.

Senator Kerry began his day of campaigning with a Sunday religious service at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio.

Shiloh is the largest predominantly black church in this city, and a high turnout in the state's African American community is critical to Mr. Kerry's chances of carrying Ohio, one of the most important states in this years' presidential election.

Speaking from the pulpit, the presidential candidate quoted from the Bible, saying it is up to believers to heal the sick, feed the hungry and help the poor.

"I look around me in America and I see things like you see, that frustrate me, that raise questions about value systems," he said. "I hear politicians talk about values, but I don't see them when they talk about family values actually valuing families the way we ought to be."

This Midwestern state has lost an estimated 173,000 manufacturing jobs since President Bush took office, and the economy is a top election year issue here.

Senator Kerry used economic statistics to frame the main message to his core supporters. "You look at African-American unemployment in the United States; it is larger than it is among whites and higher than it has been in the last years. Five-million Americans have lost their health care, countless numbers of people have lost jobs that have gone overseas," he said. "The jobs that replace them pay less than the jobs we are losing and still the gap grows wider and they don't do anything about it. That is the choice in this race my friends. It is a choice about what kind of country and society we are going to have. It is ultimately a choice about whether we are going to keep faith with the faith that we profess."

If the Democratic Senator wins Ohio, the history of American presidential politics will be on his side.

No candidate from President Bush's Republican Party has ever been elected without carrying Ohio.

In addition to his formal campaign appearances, Senator Kerry stopped by a local restaurant in a working-class neighborhood of Dayton for breakfast.

He shook hands with startled but delighted patrons, and ordered a meal of pancakes, sausage and apple juice.

One woman at the restaurant, 73-year-old Virginia Lacy, a Sister at a local Roman Catholic Church who works with poor people in the neighborhood, says Senator Kerry is popular here because he speaks about issues voters care strongly about.

"Because he is talking about medical insurance, he is talking about better things for education, he is talking about the family," he said. "These are important values in the African-American community and for the largely blue-collar, middle-class that is here in Dayton, Ohio. We have lost a lot of jobs and we can't keep going this way. It is hurting people."

The democratic presidential nominee and his campaign staff also stopped outside a local high school to play catch with an American football.

Asked by this reporter if he had a message for the American people just before the election, Senator Kerry told VOA; "We need to bring America together and we are going to do that."