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Poll: Kohl Gaining on Challenger

September 15, 1998

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ With less than two weeks before federal elections, the gap between Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s party and the opposition Social Democrats has narrowed, according to a poll released Tuesday.

In a poll conducted by Forsa Institute, 38 percent of respondents said they would support Kohl’s Christian Democrats _ an increase of 2 percent over a similar poll by Forsa on Saturday. Front-runner Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats lost 1 point since Saturday, for 41 percent support.

The poll of 1,004 citizens has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. It was the first poll to gauge voter sentiment after elections Sunday in Bavaria state that boosted the chancellor’s sagging campaign.

Kohl has been playing catch-up in the polls since the spring, when the Social Democrats named Schroeder as their candidate. The victory by Kohl’s Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union, was widely viewed as a boon for the incumbent, who has governed in Bonn with the CSU for 16 years.

The poll also tested the candidate’s personal popularity. Kohl’s rose 1 point, to 25 percent, from Saturday, while Schroeder’s dropped 2 points, to 39 percent.

One-third of those asked favored neither candidate.

In campaigning Tuesday, Kohl inaugurated a new high-speed train line connecting the capital, Berlin, with Hanover, Schroeder’s home city.

Kohl was cheered at the station in Wolfsburg by 1,000 auto workers. But in Stendal, 60 miles west of Berlin in Brandenburg state, about a dozen people protesting labor cuts on the German railway taunted Kohl and urged him to get out and talk to them. He didn’t.

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