WASHINGTON -- Democrat John Kerry "doesn't warm anybody up," and organized labor must help him create an emotional bond if fence-sitting union members are to vote for him in November, according to focus groups of undecided union voters.
But these union members find President Bush likable and strong, "with a nice family and good moral values," said a memo of results prepared for the AFL-CIO and obtained by The Associated Press. The focus groups were conducted last month in St. Louis and Philadelphia by Lake Snell Perry & Associates, a Democratic firm.
The findings offer fresh evidence that Kerry's reputation for aloofness is a hurdle the presumptive Democratic nominee must overcome -- even among his party's core constituencies. And despite the acidity labor leaders direct toward Bush and his policies, he still appeals to a segment of union members, namely the Reagan Democrats.
Though early in the race, the focus groups highlight the work facing organized labor as it tries to energize and mobilize voters on behalf of Kerry.
Union swing voters are "one small slice" of the labor federation's 13.1 million membership, said AFL-CIO spokeswoman Lane Windham.
"Our job is to make sure that they have the information to make decisions based on the issues rather than issues that are not particularly substantive," she said.
The AFL-CIO will spend a record $44 million on get-out-the-vote efforts, concentrating heavily on battleground states. Florida, Ohio and Missouri top that list.
"While Bush can pull emotional strings" of the 2001 terrorist attacks, members realize he has "nothing to brag about at home," focus groups found. "Bush can only close the deal by making Kerry unacceptable."
On the Net:
Bush campaign: http://www.georgewbush.com
Kerry campaign: http://www.johnkerry.com