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Closing Laps in Race to November

Kerry, pummeled by attacks during the convention on his national security record, also made some of his most forceful comments on the subject yet, defending his oft-ridiculed vote against $87 billion for the troops and rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the Republicans have painted as demonstrating a lack of support for the military.

"This president rushed to war without a plan to win the peace," Kerry said loudly. "And I believe that because he didn't have a plan to win the peace, it was irresponsible to give him a blank check that gave $20 billion that was going to go . . . to Halliburton and all these other companies, that we needed accountability for this president."

On a two-day bus tour of battleground state Ohio, Democrat John F. Kerry stopped in Newark and attacked the president's performance on job creation. (Laura Rauch -- AP)

One early poll showed Bush getting a sizable "bounce" from the convention. A poll by Time magazine taken between Aug. 31 and Sept. 2 showed Bush leading Kerry among likely voters 52 percent to 41 percent -- the largest lead Bush has had in recent months. Two other independent polls also taken as the convention was in progress showed movement in Bush's direction, but with the race still statistically even.

The presidential running mates and the campaigns' surrogates marked the start of the fall campaign with coast-to-coast events. Vice President Cheney took a cross-country flight from New York to rally Republicans in rural northwest Oregon and Las Vegas, where he reprised his attacks on Kerry during his Wednesday night speech and pivoted to weave the jobs report into his defense of the president's stewardship of the economy.

"The Bush tax cuts are working," Cheney told a crowd of more than 2,000 supporters in Pendleton, Ore., population 15,000. "Every American who pays federal income taxes benefited from the Bush tax cuts, and so has our economy. We've created jobs for the last 12 consecutive months, a total of about 1.7 million new jobs over the last year," he said. Cheney's 30-minute speech capped his fourth trip to Oregon this year. The Bush-Cheney ticket lost the Pacific Northwest state by 4,000 votes four years ago.

Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards campaigned in Green Bay, Wis., where he said that the jobs created in the past month were insufficient to absorb new workers and those who have lost their jobs in the past four years.

He said 65,000 manufacturing jobs had been lost in Wisconsin. "The one thing you can count on, this administration, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, they're going to try every way they know to put lipstick on this pig. But you know when you put lipstick on a pig at the end of the day it's still a pig, isn't it?" Edwards said, drawing laughter and cheers from the crowd.

Kerry surrogates were also out in full force Friday, taking issue with many of the specific attacks leveled at the Democratic nominee during the GOP convention. In a morning conference call with reporters, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) vowed that "the rebuttal of what they've thrown at us has just begun."

Former senator John Glenn (D-Ohio) took the defense a step further by comparing the Republicans' misleading statements to those of Nazi Germany. "You've just got to separate out fact from fiction. . . . Too often, too often, in this country, if you hear something repeated, it's the old Hitler business -- if you hear something repeated, repeated, repeated, repeated, you start to believe it," he said.

Romano reported from Ohio. Staff writers Spencer Hsu with Cheney and Vanessa Williams with Edwards contributed to this report.

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