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Bush reaches out to Hispanic voters

WASHINGTON -- Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, President Bush reached out yesterday to an important election-year constituency by talking up the benefits to minorities of his education and home ownership agenda.

"I'm proud of your heritage, I'm proud of the ancestry, I'm proud to call Latinos Americans, and I'm proud to be your president," Bush said at the White House.

Democrats decried the event as hollow talk from an administration that they said has not addressed Hispanics' real needs.

Attending the annual event in the East Room were ambassadors, actors, sports figures, and administration officials. Bush took care to point out many of his Hispanic appointees in his remarks, which included some words in Spanish.

"I think it's important to promote a diverse administration, to welcome all cultures," Bush said.

Then he promoted his goal of increasing the number of minority homeowners by 5.5 million by the end of the decade, and touted the 2002 education overhaul he backed that toughened standards for teachers, schools, and student achievement.

Meanwhile, two New York polls show Bush got a convention bounce in the heavily Democratic state.

One poll, from the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, showed Democrat John F. Kerry leading Bush in New York, 47 percent to 41 percent, with independent Ralph Nader at 4 percent. But that was narrowed from a pre-Republican National Convention poll that Quinnipiac had released Aug. 13 that had Kerry leading Bush, 53 percent to 35 percent, with Nader also at 4 percent. With Nader out of the New York race, Kerry leads Bush in the latest poll, 49 percent to 42 percent.

"New York state is still colored a solid Democratic blue by politicians on both sides, but the color faded in the last month as President Bush came bouncing out of a very successful convention in New York City," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Hamden, Conn.-based polling institute.

A second statewide poll, from Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, had Kerry leading Bush, 48 percent to 40 percent, with Nader at 4 percent. An April poll from Marist had Kerry leading Bush 54 percent to 37 percent. The Marist poll had Bush's approval rating at 40 percent in New York. It was 38 percent in Marist's April poll.

The GOP convention was held two weeks ago in the Big Apple, the first time Republicans held their event in New York City, where there are five Democrats for every Republican. Statewide, there are five Democrats for every three Republicans. No Republican presidential candidate has carried New York state since Ronald Reagan did in 1980 and 1984.

Quinnipiac's telephone poll of 1,438 registered voters was conducted Sept. 7-12 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Marist's telephone poll of 786 registered voters was conducted Sept. 13-14 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus of 3.5 percentage points.

A national tracking poll indicates Bush has been gaining ground among overall voters as a leader and the man to fight terrorism, but uncommitted voters have been less impressed.

The National Annenberg Election Survey found that Bush led Democrat John F. Kerry by 54 percent to 36 percent on handling terrorism in polling from the end of the Republican convention to Sept. 12. Bush was seen as a better commander in chief by 52 percent to 39 percent over Kerry.

On both measures, Bush's standing was improved from early August after the Democratic convention. Other polls also have shown Bush growing stronger on various measures after the GOP convention.

But among swing voters, those who are undecided or say they might vote for another candidate, Bush appeared to lose some ground in the Annenberg survey and was no stronger than he was in August on the issues of fighting terrorism or being the better commander in chief. 

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