Hoping to shed what some perceive to be an elitist image, John Kerry (search) appeared to be just a regular guy hunting in Ohio on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, President Bush (search) was hunting for votes in Pennsylvania, where Kerry has a slight lead in the polls.
Bush was speaking about medical liability reform and health care at a sports training center in Hershey, Pa. This is the president's 40th trip to Pennsylvania.
Kerry was hunting for geese — and for votes — near Youngstown, Ohio. As Kerry adviser Mike McCurry put it, voters need to get a better sense of John Kerry, the guy.
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Kerry returned after a two-hour hunting trip wearing a camouflage jacket, carrying a 12-gauge shotgun and sporting blood on his hand. But someone else carried the bird he said he shot.
"I'm too lazy," Kerry joked. "I'm still giddy over the Red Sox. It was hard to focus."
The Massachusetts senator was referring to Boston's record-making American League championship Wednesday night. He stayed up late cheering his hometown team onto victory, then got up for a 7 a.m. hunting trip at a supporter's produce farm.
Kerry Blasts Bush on Stem-Cell Research
Kerry on Thursday accused Bush of slowing scientific advancement after earning a special endorsement from the widow of actor Christopher Reeve, a proponent of the embryonic stem cell research on which the president has placed limits.
"The American people deserve a president who understands that when America invests in science and technology, we can build a stronger economy and create jobs for the 21st century," Kerry said during a campaign rally. "But George Bush has literally ... turned his back on the spirit of exploration and discovery."
Reeve's widow, Dana, said her family has been grieving privately since her husband died Oct. 10. "My inclination would be to remain private for a good long while," she said. "But I came here today in support of John Kerry because this is so important. This is what Chris wanted."
Reeve had lived as a paraplegic since a riding accident in 1995. He had become an advocate for medical research and believed studying embryonic stem cells might unlock lifesaving cures and treatments, Dana Reeve said.
"His heart was full of hope, and he imagined living in a world where politics would never get in the way of hope," she said.
Kerry said scientific innovation needs political support and that Bush, beholden to special interests, refuses to make investments that benefit everyone.
"On the other hand, he has an extreme political agenda that slows instead of advances science," Kerry said.
The NRA and the Second Amendment
Kerry bagged a goose during his early morning hunting trip in Ohio but his real target is the pool of swing state voters. Ohio went for Bush by 3.5 percent in 2000 but the state is considered one of the biggest toss-up states this year.
Campaigning in Ohio, Vice President Dick Cheney, an avid hunter, on Thursday criticized Kerry's hunting excursion, saying: "The second amendment is more than just a photo opportunity."
The National Rifle Association (search) said it bought a full-page ad in Thursday's Youngstown newspaper that says Kerry is posing as a sportsman while opposing gun-owners' rights. Kerry has denied NRA claims that he wants to "take away" guns, but he supported the ban on assault-type weapons and mandatory background checks for gun show purchases.
"If John Kerry thinks the Second Amendment is about photo ops, he's Daffy," says the ad the NRA bought in The Vindicator. It features a large photo of Kerry with his finger on a shotgun trigger but looking in another direction.
Meanwhile, labor unions have been circulating fliers among workers that say Kerry won't take away guns. "He likes his own gun too much," reads one of the fliers from the Building Trades Department of the AFL-CIO (search). It features a picture of Kerry aiming a shotgun.
Kerry's aides said he spent about two hours hunting at a blind set up in a cornfield. More than two dozen journalists were invited to the farm outside of Youngstown to see Kerry emerge from the field, but none witnessed Kerry taking any shots.
Kerry was accompanied by Ohio Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland; Bob Bellino, a board member for the local Ducks Unlimited (search); and Neal Brady, assistant park manager of Indian Lake State Park (search) in western Ohio. Each of his companions carried a dead goose on the way back, while Kerry walked beside them with his 12-gauge in one hand and the other free to pet a yellow Labrador named Woody.
Kerry said each of the four men shot a goose.
The Democratic senator spoke to an audience about science and research Thursday. He was joined by the widow of Christopher Reeve, the actor and stem-cell research advocate who died earlier this month.
Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards (search) accused the Bush administration on Thursday of ignoring problems ranging from scarce flu vaccine to the war in Iraq while officials campaign in battleground states. "Who's minding the store?" he asked.
During a bus tour of eastern Iowa, Edwards cited National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans as examples of Bush officials who are campaigning while pressing issues remain unresolved.
"There's a solution for this," Edwards said. "In America, that's called an election."
Bush: Focus on Health Care
The focus on health care in Downington was the first of two appearances Bush made in Pennsylvania on Thursday.
"The Kerry plan would move America down the road toward federal control of health care," Bush told hundreds of supporters in the area outside Philadelphia that he won by 18,000 votes four years ago.
Bush's health care agenda includes tax free medical savings accounts he says would help people pay their bills. He also wants a law that enables small businesses to join together to buy cheaper health insurance.
On the issue of lawsuits against doctors, the president said Kerry has voted 10 times in his Senate career against reforms in the area of medical liability.
"The effects of the litigation culture are real in Pennsylvania ... medical malpractice premiums are soaring," Bush said.
The Bush campaign says limiting medical malpractice awards could save $60 billion to $108 billion annually in health care costs. The Kerry campaign rejects Bush's numbers and favors limits on medical malpractice premium increases, sanctions for frivolous lawsuits, and nonbinding mediation in all states.
He was also planning to rally supporters in Hershey.
Later, Bush was planning to meet privately with the Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia. The Bush campaign believes the born-again Republican is as competitive as the Catholic Kerry in getting the Catholic vote.
Nationwide, polls show the race continues to be close, with Bush enjoying a narrow lead. In the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll, Bush is ahead five points in a two-way race — up from three points earlier this month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.