Friday, September 12, 2008

Wall Street Journal - Dole Struggles Against Republican 'Baggage'

Hagan getting some national exposure in the WSJ today. Take note of the quote at the bottom.
In North Carolina, Libby Dole Battles Foe, Own Party's Baggage

September 12, 2008; Page A8

PITTSBORO, N.C. -- Six years ago, Elizabeth Dole won a Senate seat based on a long record in Washington and powerful ties to top Republicans. Few thought her re-election was in doubt.

But this year, with voters frustrated with Washington in general and Republicans in particular, Mrs. Dole is in a bruising battle to keep her job, according to recent polls. Her race against Democrat Kay Hagan, a North Carolina state senator, has become one of the more aggressive campaigns of this election, with each side hammering the other in television ads and public statements.

Sign of a Struggle

The North Carolina race is a sign of the struggle facing Republican incumbents around the country. Few have the résumé of Mrs. Dole, one of the best-known members of the party. She is married to former presidential candidate and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, has served as a cabinet secretary in two Republican administrations and was president of the nonpartisan American Red Cross.

Democrats are trying to turn Mrs. Dole's near-celebrity reputation into a liability. A series of ads says she's voted with President Bush 92% of the time and charges that she hasn't accomplished much as a senator, despite 40 years in Washington. "I fully expect to win," Mrs. Hagan said. "She hasn't been effective at all for North Carolina." 
.Mrs. Hagan's team has been encouraging supporters to hold "ruby-slipper parties," a reference to her promise to send Mrs. Dole "back to Kansas," her husband's native state and where she was registered to vote for years before running for Senate in North Carolina.

At a Memorial Day event in Thomasville, the two women met and exchanged pleasantries. "I've been wanting to meet you, too," said Mrs. Dole before adding -- without cracking a smile -- "I wear an 8½ medium."

Mrs. Dole, for her part, says she will prevail. She won in 2002, against a former Clinton administration official, by nine percentage points. Some supporters predict she'll win again, though perhaps by a smaller margin.

"The Senate race in North Carolina is always competitive, so you expect that you go out to work hard and to get the record out," Mrs. Dole said. "I think we'll come out fine."

Mrs. Dole skipped the Republicans' national convention to campaign. She picked up an endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business group. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hagan spent the week discussing education. She held a roundtable discussion at school in Colfax, where she discussed suggested changes to the No Child Left Behind law.

Mrs. Dole seems hurt by the criticism leveled against her. At one forum, she spoke to agribusiness leaders about a multibillion-dollar buyout of tobacco farmers that passed Congress in 2004, a legislative accomplishment she often cites on the campaign trail. Then, Mrs. Hagan spoke while Mrs. Dole lingered in the wings.

"Her first words were, 'Elizabeth Dole didn't get the tobacco quota buyout for you. You did it,' and it just went from there," Mrs. Dole recalled. "Standing there watching it, it was fascinating. I mean it was just, tear me down."

Mrs. Hagan was not "tearing her down," responded spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan. "She takes opportunities to contrast her record of results with Elizabeth Dole's record of ineffectiveness," she said.

Mrs. Dole hit back last week with an ad featuring a small, barking dog repeatedly running at, and then into, a white picket fence, suggesting that Mrs. Hagan -- dubbed "Fibber Kay" in the ad -- is making a lot of noise but no progress.

Asked about the ad, Mrs. Dole said: "After six weeks of the mudslinging at me, it's time to say, 'Enough.' "

No Mention of Fight

At a recent visit with leaders of the Chatham County Chamber of Commerce, about 50 miles southeast of Greensboro, Mrs. Dole made no mention of the tough campaign fight. She discussed her support for greater offshore oil drilling and low taxes, and chatted about this year's apple crop and her work with a Christian antihunger charity.

David Poe, a long-term-care insurance agent who attended the meeting, said he was impressed that Mrs. Dole "was as on top of issues as she was." But he said he is not sure if he will vote for her.

"I'm disgusted with everyone in Washington. I'm pretty much of the opinion that if I could get rid of every incumbent there right now and just start over, we might be better off," said Mr. Poe, who is registered as unaffiliated.

Bob Garrison, a Greensboro mortgage banker, says he typically votes straight-ticket Republican. But he is upset about the Iraq war and is not sure about this year. To vote for Mrs. Dole, he said, "I guess I'd have to overcome some of the negative publicity about her."

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