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Kerry Cancels Casey Event

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Democratic Senate candidate Bob Casey cautiously defended Sen. John Kerry on Wednesday, saying controversial remarks he made about troops in Iraq were a mistake that his Republican opponent was trying to use to revive a desperate campaign.

Kerry had been scheduled to stump for Casey, but changed his schedule amid controversy over comments in which he said people unable to succeed in the U.S. educational system would likely "get stuck in Iraq."

"He botched a joke. He was honest about a mistake that he made," Casey said after speaking to several hundred students in a packed auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania. "He didn't make a mistake like this president did" with a failed strategy in Iraq.

Casey's opponent, Sen. Rick Santorum, scheduled a news conference for Wednesday night to denounce Kerry's comments. He called the remarks disparaging to American troops.

The fact that Santorum was seizing on Kerry's remarks showed how desperate he is, Casey said.

Two independent polls released Wednesday showed Santorum continuing to trail Casey, the state treasurer, among likely voters in the final days of the campaign.

Kerry said he meant no offense to troops when he told a college audience in California on Monday that young people might get "stuck in Iraq" if they don't study hard and do their homework.

Casey made no reference to the controversial comments in his appearance with Gov. Ed Rendell at Penn, but told the students that he represented change from Bush's failed policies on Iraq, education and health care.

"The students here and your friends here at Penn are ready for change," Casey told the cheering crowd, many of whom held up camera phones and hissed when Republican policies were mentioned. "Rick Santorum is very satisfied with where we are in America. I am not."

The decision to call off the Kerry campaign event was made by the Massachusetts senator, not Casey, both camps said.

"We made a decision not to allow the Republican hate machine to use Democratic candidates as proxies in their distorted spin war," said David Wade, a Kerry spokesman, in a statement.

Republicans demanded that Kerry, the 2004 presidential candidate, apologize. He did Wednesday morning, saying he was sorry for the "botched joke."

Two other Democratic candidates, one in Iowa and one in Minnesota, also canceled appearances with Kerry.

In a Quinnipiac University poll of 933 likely voters, Casey led Santorum by 10 points, 52 percent to 42 percent. The same poll had Casey with a six-point advantage in September.

A second, smaller Keystone Poll by Franklin & Marshall College showed Casey leading Santorum among voters by 17 points, 56 percent to 39 percent. The same poll showed Casey with a five-point edge in September.

The Quinnipiac poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The Keystone Poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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