GIRARD, Ohio, Oct. 21--With 12 days to go before the election, it was time to show the serious artillery.
John Kerry brought his campaign for president to a duck blind here in far eastern Ohio Thursday morning, and while he did manage to clip one goose, he was really aiming for undecided voters in this battleground state.
Senior adviser Mike McCurry was quite direct this week in saying that the two-hour predawn hunting trip was another attempt to get voters to know Kerry, who has had some issues with his so-called likeability factor. Kerry also has been talking about his Catholic faith more, and on Sunday he will give a speech on values.
Guns and hunting rights are a big issue in the middle of the country -- and in a number of the battleground states where the race in closest.
Clearly concerned about his low rating from the National Rifle Association -- he got an F on their last report card -- Kerry often makes a point during his stump speech that he owns guns and hunts, despite what the opposition says about him.
On Thursday morning, in fact, he happily emerged from the blind wearing a camouflage jacket and holding on to a 12-gauge shotgun -- but somebody else toted the dead goose.
"I'm too lazy," Kerry joked.
"I'm still giddy over the Red Sox," the Massachusetts senator added. "It was hard to focus."
The NRA bought a full-page ad in the Youngstown, Ohio, newspaper Thursday accusing Kerry of suiting himself up as a sportsman while opposing gun owner rights. Kerry has said he supports hunters and sportsmen's rights to own guns, but gun advocates have assailed him for supporting the ban on assault weapons and for requiring background checks on gun purchases.
"If John Kerry thinks the Second Amendment is about photo ops, he's daffy," says the ad the in the Youngstown Vindicator. "If John Kerry wins, hunters lose," concludes the ad, which was paid for by the NRA Political Victory Fund.
A spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign called the orchestrated event "another example of John Kerry presenting himself as someone he is not."
"It's a fraud," said Steve Schmidt, the Bush spokesman. "He has fought against the interests of gun owners throughout his 20-year Senate career."
Kerry purchased a non-resident hunting license in Ohio on Saturday, a fact that was widely reported in the hotly contested state. His license permits him to hunt water fowl in wetlands habitats.
Kerry was joined on his hunting excursion by Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio), Bob Bellino, a board member for Ducks Unlimited, a wetlands conservation group based in Memphis, and Neal Brady, an assistant park manager of Indian Lake State Park.
In total, the hunting party bagged four geese. The other three men carried their own dead birds.
Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.