May 17, 9:40 AM EDT

Merkel challenger Schulz: I may have believed own hype

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BERLIN (AP) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel's challenger in Germany's general election says he may have been swayed by the hype over his nomination as his party tries to recover from a humiliating defeat in a state vote.

Martin Schulz was nominated in January as the center-left Social Democrats' challenger in the Sept. 24 election, generating a so-called "Schulz effect" that pushed up his party's poll ratings. But three state election flops followed - the worst on Sunday, when Merkel's conservatives ousted a Social Democrat-led government in North Rhine-Westphalia, a center-left stronghold.

Schulz told Wednesday's edition of Die Zeit weekly: "I warned from the beginning against the Schulz hype. But I can't rule out that I let myself be impressed by it."

Schulz said he "should have come earlier with concrete substance."

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