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Inside Politics

Kerry works to bring North Carolina into play

Focuses on job losses, Bush economic policies

Sen. John Kerry talked about jobs Friday, during a stop in North Carolina.
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John F. Kerry
North Carolina
George W. Bush

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (CNN) -- Energized by recent polls suggesting a tightening race against President Bush for North Carolina this fall, Sen. John Kerry brought his economic message to the state Friday.

"I'm running for president of the United States because I know in my heart -- and this does not have a Democratic or Republican label, it's an American value -- we know how to put people to work, and we know what to do ... to be fair," the Democratic presidential nominee told a town hall meeting in Charlotte.

Kerry, whose North Carolina running mate Sen. John Edwards is popular at home, did not mention the battle over Republican-funded ads attacking Kerry's service in Vietnam that have dominated political headlines in recent days.

He focused his comments on job losses, taking aim squarely at Bush's economic policies. Over the past four years North Carolina has lost about 160,000 jobs, with manufacturing employment down more than 20 percent.

Kerry met with several laid off workers before Friday's event.

Anyone who looks "neutrally" at the facts "knows that there hasn't been the kind of help from Washington that people deserve," he said at the town hall meeting. "Every American deserves to have leadership that understands the difficulties of average folks every day."

Poll data

Polls earlier in the election season showed Bush with a strong lead over Kerry in North Carolina. Bush easily won the state in 2000. But in recent weeks, the Kerry-Edwards ticket seems to have made substantial headway.

A poll taken last week by Research 2000 for three North Carolina news organizations showed Bush barely ahead of Kerry, 48 percent to 45 percent -- within the poll's margin of error.

North Carolina's possible entry into the "swing state" category could alter the extremely close presidential race and force the Bush-Cheney campaign to expend resources in the state.

"I hope to come back many times," Kerry told the Charlotte crowd.

But Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a North Carolina Republican, told CNN's American Morning Friday she is confident Bush will win the state in the fall. Dole said she believes the tide will turn in her state.

"They've had their convention," she said of the Democrats. "Now we're moving into our convention."

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