(CNSNews.com) - At least three Democrats locked in close U.S. Senate races have joined calls from Republican leaders for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to apologize for comments viewed as insulting to American troops.
"Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well," Kerry told students in Pasadena while campaigning for California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides. "If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq," he added.
Conservatives felt Kerry had insulted the troops by implying that they joined the military and ended up in Iraq because they were stupid or poorly educated. Several Republicans including President Bush and Sen. John McCain called on Kerry to apologize.
Democratic Rep. Harold Ford, who is running to replace retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist from Tennessee, said Tuesday that "whatever the intent, Sen. Kerry was wrong to say what he said" and called on his party's 2004 presidential candidate to apologize.
Another Democrat, Montana Senate President Jon Tester - who is challenging Republican Sen. Conrad Burns - said Kerry "owes our troops and their families an apology" because the comment was "poorly worded and just plain stupid."
Rep. Ben Cardin, a Democrat running to replace retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes in Maryland, said Kerry should apologize to clear up confusion about the war in Iraq.
Ford, the son of former Rep. Harold Ford Sr., is in a close race with Republican Bob Corker. A CNN poll conducted Saturday showed Corker leading Ford by 8 points. A Rasmussen poll conducted Sunday showed Corker's lead at only two points, within the margin of error.
Tester leads Burns in a recent Rasmussen poll by only three percentage points, within the 4.5-point margin of error.
Cardin, who earlier this month was polling 11 percent ahead of Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, has seen his lead shrink to only five points in the heavily Democratic state.
Many Democrats have remained silent on the Kerry controversy while others, including Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, have backed him, criticizing what they called a "text book Republican campaign tactic."
In a news conference Tuesday, Kerry refused to apologize for the remarks, which he said were a "botched joke" intended to make fun of the president for getting the U.S. "stuck in Iraq."
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