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Polls show Kerry lead stretching

General election-style rhetoric broke out Friday as polls showed that Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry may be en route to a Tuesday showing that would make the front-runner an even more prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge President Bush in November.

Independent polls gave Kerry sizable leads in Missouri, Arizona and North Dakota, which offer 143 of the 269 delegates up for grabs Tuesday.

Polling data also showed him in a statistical dead heat with North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in South Carolina and running a close second to Wesley Clark in Oklahoma.

In Washington, the Communications Workers of America, with 700,000 members, endorsed Kerry and Michigan's largest teachers union, the 157,000-member Michigan Education Association, gave its support.

Two members of the Congressional Black Caucus also announced their endorsements Friday, with Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., backing Edwards and Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., supporting Kerry.

President Bush to follow

in Democrats' footsteps

For the second consecutive week, President Bush will be popping up in a state where Democrats have been bashing him during a presidential primary campaign. This time, it's South Carolina.

Just as he did this week in New Hampshire, Bush will wait until two days after the Democrats have cleared out before he visits. The official reason for his trip is to discuss his antiterrorism agenda.

As in New Hampshire, South Carolina is a state where residents have heard weeks of bitter criticism of Bush.

At the Democratic debate in Greenville on Thursday, for instance, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said, "A president has to be able to walk and chew chewing gum at the same time."

Bush easily won South Carolina in 2000.

Battle lines are forming

over indirect funding

Major liberal donors are demonstrating their willingness to fund a new shadow Democratic Party, according to reports filed Friday by a network of nominally independent organizations committed to defeating President Bush in November.

At the same time, momentum to bar their activities gained new strength. On Thursday, the legal staff of the Federal Election Commission proposed regulations that could choke off the groups' plans, with backing from an alliance of Republican Party leaders and campaign watchdog groups.

The reports filed Friday with the Internal Revenue Service and the FEC showed millions of dollars flowing from unions, wealthy individuals, environmental groups and others on the left into such organizations as America Coming Together (ACT), America Votes and the Partnership for America's Families, which are known as "527" groups for the section of the tax code governing their activities.

These and other 527 groups were formed to fill a vacuum on the Democratic side of the aisle created by the 2002 passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which bars the political parties from raising and spending large, unregulated "soft money" contributions from corporations, unions and rich people.

The ban has proved far more damaging to Democrats than to Republicans, who are far better at raising smaller, and still legal, "hard money" donations.

Rhetoric blasts off

at union hall rally

NEW CASTLE, Del. _ John Kerry was deep into his speech at a packed union hall Friday night, vowing to reorder President Bush's spending priorities and "go to the moon right here on earth," when an onlooker picked up the theme.

"Send him to the moon!" the man shouted, to roaring applause.

"I'm going to be content just to send him back to Texas," the Massachusetts senator told the crowd of 500 at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall.

"It'll cost us less and we'll have more money to clean up your river. How about that?"

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