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Effect of controversial Moore film on election is debatable

Page 2 of 2 -- At the same time, there is a central hole in the film's political plotline: It does not mention Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, although several scenes were shot after the primary process had ended. Kerry voted to authorize the war in Iraq and is now seeking centrist votes.

Moore, an outspoken liberal and famously provocative filmmaker, endorsed retired General Wesley K. Clark during the primary process this year -- a fact that Republicans are happy to point out.

''If you look at Michael Moore, this is the guy who, when he wrapped his arms around Wes Clark's candidacy, Wes Clark imploded within 48 hours," Bush campaign spokeswoman Nicolle Devenish said ''I'd be interested to see what lengths John Kerry goes to to keep his distance from the movie."

Devenish said that no one at the Bush campaign had seen the movie, and Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said the same of the Kerry campaign. Cutter declined to comment further on the film.

In one of several anti-Bush moments that drew huge cheers on Monday night, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq reads aloud from her son's final letter home. ''I really hope they do not reelect that fool, honestly," Lila Lipscomb read from her son Michael Patterson's letter.

Another scene showed a soldier criticizing the US military hierarchy. ''If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I'd ask for his resignation," the soldier said. Again, the crowd applauded.

When an image of Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz -- having his hair slicked back before a television appearance by an aide who used his own spit as hair gel -- appeared on screen, the audience hissed. Appearances by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney drew a similar response.

As he did at the Cannes film festival where he won his most recent prize, Moore received a standing ovation at the Ziegfeld Theater screening in midtown Manhattan, which was packed with Hollywood celebrities and other famous figures. Coming just three days after Ronald Reagan's star-studded funeral in Washington, the event felt almost as if it were designed to be a liberal counterpoint. Anne E. Kornblut can be reached at akornblut@globe.com. 

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Michael Moore, who won a prize at Cannes for his new film, admits having doubts about his powers of persuasion, saying, 'It's just a movie.'
Michael Moore, who won a prize at Cannes for his new film, admits having doubts about his powers of persuasion, saying, "It's just a movie." (AP Photo )
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