Kerry Reassures Allies for a Sprint to Finish; Democrats Worry about His Stumbles

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BOSTON - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry yesterday rallied his staunchest and longest-running supporters, promising 1,000 donors at a dinner here that he's now in fighting trim for the stretch run to the Nov. 2 election.

"These folks have got me in a fighting mood. When I get in a fighting mood at the end of September and the beginning of October - you know what happens here in Massachusetts," said Mr. Kerry, who Democrats say has a history of finishing strongly in elections.

Seeking to stem a sense of worry among Democrats across the country that his campaign has stumbled since the end of the Democratic National Convention here in July, Mr. Kerry told his longtime supporters that he feels the race changing.

"This race - I feel those October juices flowing - I've been at this for a while, and when those juices get flowing, I feel good," said Mr. Kerry, who for nearly 20 years has been the junior senator from this state.

Polls on the campaign are wildly divergent. Many show the race within a point or two, but the latest Gallup survey shows Mr. Bush leading by 13 percentage points, and the CBS-New York Times poll shows the president with a nine-point lead.

Still, on Friday, Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart told reporters the campaign believes the race has returned to where it was just before the Republican convention.

"As we sit here today, we are looking at a race that is very tight both nationally and tight in the battleground states," he said. "This is a race that fundamentally and structurally has not changed for some time. And we are, I think, very pleased with the position we're in."

Mr. Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, said last night she believes now is Mr. Kerry's time.

"I think it is interesting as the only senator from the class of 1984, he's the only one who has not run for president, which, of course, is not a reason to run for president," she said. …