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Kerry talks about his faith, lifetime of hunting

By Nedra Pickler

The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - John Kerry is talking more openly about his personal connection to God and guns as he kicks off the general election campaign asking for support from conservative-leaning independent voters.

As his post-convention bus tour rolls through blue-collar and Republican-leaning districts, the Democratic presidential nominee has repeatedly described how he began a lifetime of hunting and fishing as a young boy. And lately, he has been speaking in more detail about a faith that he and running mate John Edwards share in God.

"We're running to be lay leaders, but there isn't any way that you're not affected by your fundamental values, the faith that brings you to the table," Kerry said Sunday to worshippers at Greater Grace Temple in the heart of the presidential campaign battleground in Ohio.

With his political enemies trying to portray the Massachusetts senator as an aloof Boston Brahmin, Kerry's campaign is putting a bigger focus on the common values that he shares with average Americans -- fishing and hunting, family and faith.

Kerry didn't mention his interest in hunting in his nomination speech Thursday, but he has been describing it on his bus tour through more conservative areas. In Greensburg, Pa., on Saturday, Kerry pointed out a small group of men wearing bright orange shirts that said, "Sportsmen 4 Kerry."

"I've been a fisherman since I was about 3 years old, 4 years old," Kerry said. "Flung my first line out with my dad. I've been a hunter since I was about 12 years old, and I went through the whole progression, you know, BB gun to .22s to .30-30, you name it."

Kerry will face opposition from the 4 million-strong National Rifle Association. A quarter of NRA members live in West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania, all potential swing states.

The NRA says Kerry usually votes against gun rights in the Senate. Kerry supports extending the ban on assault-type weapons and requiring background checks at gun shows. He opposes granting gun makers immunity from lawsuits.

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