Monday, October 25, 2004

Senate campaign heats up


Poll: Bunning's lead falls to six points against foe

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning and challenger Daniel Mongiardo will cover lots of ground in the last full week of a campaign that has taken some unexpected turns.

A new poll released Sunday showed the gap between them has narrowed.

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Bunning, who is seeking a second term, kicks off a five-day bus tour on his home turf of Northern Kentucky today.

Bunning said he would tout his "mainstream conservative" record at rallies planned in 25 communities.

Democrat Mongiardo will launch his statewide tour with a rally her Tuesday. He will visit at least 40 communities this week in a recreational vehicle dubbed the "Health Care Express."

Mongiardo, a doctor and state senator from Hazard, has made improving health care a central theme.

Mongiardo's campaign claimed the momentum after a new poll showed he has cut into the comfortable lead Bunning held a month ago.

The poll, published Sunday in the Courier-Journal, showed Bunning is apparently leading by 6 percentage points.

The difference is within the margin of error, which means the race could be tighter, or Bunning's lead could be larger.

"We're confident that momentum is on our side," said Kim Geveden, Mongiardo's campaign manager.

"We've seen a dramatic shift and we want to keep that energy level up and energize our supporters."

Bunning had a 17-point lead in a similar poll in September.

Bunning campaign manager David Young said the incumbent's message would resonate with voters in the final days.

He said that Bunning "has the experience and leadership Kentucky needs during these challenging times."

Mongiardo is getting a late boost from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has begun running ads attacking Bunning.

Bunning's bus tour will stop in several Republican strongholds as well as in western Kentucky - which is mainly Democratic in registration but where Republicans have made inroads.

Bunning's schedule does not include stops in Louisville or Lexington, the state's largest cities.

Geveden said Bunning's exclusion of the two cities from his bus tour was meant to "hide from the scrutiny of the press."

Young said that Bunning has campaigned extensively in Lexington and Louisville, and plans to return to both cities before the Nov. 2 election.

The tightening race reflected in the poll comes as Bunning has been dogged by recent missteps.

Last week, Bunning said he didn't know Army reservists had refused a convoy mission in Iraq. Mongiardo pounced on the remark, saying it showed that Bunning is out of touch with issues. Earlier in the month, Bunning used a TelePrompTer for some comments while participating via satellite in his only debate with Mongiardo.

Bunning, 73, has accused Mongiardo of spreading "disgusting" rumors that the incumbent isn't mentally fit to keep his job.

Mongiardo dismissed the accusation as "another absurd comment," and said he had not spread any rumors about Bunning's health.




ELECTION 2004
Blackwell revels in the hot seat
Edwards preaches to faithful
Levy vote puts in question Drake's long-term prognosis
Lawmakers get in position for leadership
Dems out to clinch the Jewish vote
Record high of 9 women hold governor's offices
Senate campaign heats up
Jefferson Co. Republicans won't use poll challengers
Butler County tax levies face a host of unknowns
N.Ky. a stronghold for Bush, poll says
Bush, Kerry hammer home themes
Ohio Supreme Court opponents disagree on revealing views
Math professor challenging county treasurer
Franklin voters consider merger
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