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Campaigns turn eyes to voters living abroad

Candidates' kin stump in Mexico

MEXICO CITY -- President Bush's young, Hispanic nephew and his bride are on the campaign trail -- in Mexico, where they are joining the increasingly vigorous battle for the votes of 1 million US citizens living south of the border.

George Prescott Bush -- whose father is Florida Governor Jeb Bush and whose mother, Columba, is originally from Mexico -- was arriving late yesterday for a four-day tour in support of his uncle's reelection campaign. The trip was paid for by the political nonprofit Republicans Abroad.

The campaign for Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry also is courting American voters in Mexico -- and relying on family to deliver the message. Diana Kerry, chairman of Americans Overseas for Kerry, came to Mexico City in July to stump for her brother.

Organizers of George P. Bush's visit are emphasizing the Bush family ties to the country, believed to be home to the largest population of US citizens living abroad.

Republican and Democratic campaign officials estimate about 1 million Americans and dual US citizens live in Mexico, although it's unclear how many may vote this year.

Both Republicans and Democrats report an increased interest in absentee voting in Mexico.

"It just seems like it's a little more important than we realized," Cherokee Randolph said while waiting in line Thursday outside the US Embassy to request an absentee ballot. The 43-year-old musician said she didn't vote in the 2000 presidential elections.

"There's a little escapism when you're living abroad," she said. "We still have the responsibility to cast our vote."

President Bush's victory in Florida was decided by a margin of 537 votes in 2000, after thousands of votes were counted from Floridians abroad.

Several million Americans live abroad, though they are less likely to vote than people living in the United States. King noted that voting overseas is more difficult logistically.

That hasn't stopped Republican and Democratic organizers from trying to get out the vote this year in Mexico, with both parties launching registration drives.

Republicans Abroad is pumping money into Mexico, purchasing political advertisements in English-language media across the country, according to Ryan King, deputy director of the Washington-based group.

George P. Bush plans to meet with business leaders in Mexico City and later travel to large American communities in and around Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende.

Meanwhile, Kerry supporters leapfrogged ahead to hold a voter-registration and ballot-request drive in Guadalajara on Thursday.

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