presidential polls, he may want to start courting thrift executives.

The Arizona Republican, who has been closing in on front-runner George W. Bush in national polls, finished a very distant second to the Texas governor in a straw poll by America's Community Bankers at the trade group's annual convention here this week. The tally: Gov. Bush, 74% of the Republican vote, Sen. McCain, 13%.

Magazine publisher Steve Forbes finished third in balloting on the Republican side, with 7%, and talk show host Alan Keyes placed fourth, at 3%.

The vast majority of the 1,375 responses during the two-day poll named Republicans -- no surprise, considering this was a banking convention. But those who preferred Democrats strongly supported former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley over Vice President Al Gore.

Mr. Bradley, who is running neck-and-neck with the vice president in many state polls, got 60% of the responses, Mr. Gore, 40%. -- Alan Kline

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A Pennsylvania thrift has joined the fight to save a Revolutionary War battlefield from development.

First Financial Savings Association in Downingtown has lent $1.55 million to a group trying to preserve the Paoli Battlefield in nearby Malvern. The group needed a bridge loan while it waits for federal funds set aside to buy the land.

The 40-acre tract of woods and farmland is where 53 American soldiers died in September 1777 trying to prevent British troops from capturing Philadelphia. For the last 75 years the land has been owned by a private school, which is selling it to boost its endowment.

In spring 1998 the school said it would sell the land to developers if local officials did not raise enough money by October 1999. After a bold lobbying campaign that drew the attention of newspapers as far away as Seattle, Congress committed $1.25 million to the purchase last month.

But the funds will not arrive until December, at the earliest. First Financial's loan allowed the preservationists to make the school's deadline and buy the battlefield.

"We feel it is important to do whatever we can to help preserve the battlefield," said Anthony J Biondi, president of $424 million-asset bank. "It's a part of American history and helps distinguish us from the other counties in Pennsylvania." -- Louis Whiteman

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