Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.), one of the most prominent elected Democrats, will not be at his party's convention when John F. Kerry accepts the presidential nomination July 29.

Daschle will speak at the convention in Boston on its second day, July 27, then return to South Dakota late the next day, 24 hours before Kerry delivers his acceptance speech at the gathering's finale. Daschle's schedule, reported yesterday by Roll Call, raised some eyebrows among congressional Democrats.

Noting that Daschle faces a tough reelection challenge from Republican John Thune, who often ties him to the Democratic Party's most liberal figures, they wondered if the senator wanted to avoid posing on the podium for the big balloon drop alongside Kerry, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) and others.

Not at all, Daschle campaign spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said. He said Daschle plans to host a "convention watch" in Sioux Falls, S.D., on the 29th, and has no concerns about associating himself with Kerry.

Daschle "wanted to come home and spend a day campaigning," Pfeiffer said in an interview. "He has not and never will back away from Senator Kerry. . . . I think those who suggest that this has some greater meaning are grasping at straws."

It's Not Easy Being Green

Yet another voter group has been polled -- and apparently hunters and anglers are upset about the Bush administration's conservation policies.

The poll commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation targeted conservative male voters, 68 percent of whom voted for President Bush. It found that half of respondents said the oil and gas industry's opinion counted most with the administration when it came to hunting and fishing, with 38 percent saying hunters and anglers should have the most say.

Larry Schweiger, the federation's president, said, "America's sportsmen, who helped elect President Bush, are sounding a clarion call that his administration is listening to the wrong people, especially the oil and gas industry, in making policy decisions."

Not true, said Steve Williams, who directs the Fish and Wildlife Service, who added that sporting groups are pleased with Bush's focus on preserving wetlands. "Some say sportsmen are turning away from the administration," he said. "I frankly don't see that."

Quotable

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told Bloomberg Radio yesterday that President Bush was the victim of bad advice when his administration forecast that his tax cuts would create millions of jobs: "His economists screwed up. . . . [Bush] was not right in not questioning his economists."

Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.