News & Observer | newsobserver.com | Dole, Hagan finishing pitch to voters

Published: Nov 02, 2008 12:30 AM
Modified: Nov 02, 2008 01:44 AM

Dole, Hagan finishing pitch to voters

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Sen. Elizabeth Dole wrapped up her eight-day "ElizaBus tour" Saturday while her challenger, Kay Hagan, worked early election sites in a late push for votes in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race.

"We've got three days to go," said Hagan, a Democratic state senator from Greensboro who's trying to oust Dole. "I'm feeling very good about this campaign."

While Hagan greeted voters waiting to cast their ballots at Pullen Park in Raleigh, Dole outlined her career accomplishments to fellow Republicans gathered at GOP headquarters in Union County.

"We've got to pull out all the stops and not leave anything to chance," Dole, the Republican incumbent, told about 60 supporters in Monroe. "I want your prayers."

Saturday evening, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Raleigh for a fund-raiser for Hagan. The event was held at the home of former ambassador Jeanette Hyde.

Also on Saturday night, Dole's campaign said it stopped running the controversial "godless" ad that has drawn national attention to Dole's re-election bid. The ad ties Hagan to a Boston fundraiser held by civil liberties activist Woody Kaplan, an organizer of the Godless Americans PAC. Hagan has responded by emphasizing her active role in the Presbyterian church.

Dole spokesman Dan McLagan said the campaign began taking the commercial off the air Friday, although it still aired on a few stations Saturday. In its place, the Dole campaign is airing a second TV commercial that deals with the same Boston fundraiser, but in a less strident way.

McLagan said the decision to stop running the ad was not related to the criticism it has received from both Democrats and Republicans.

Hagan has called the ad "despicable."

McLagan said, "We went to the second version of it. We knew there would be pushback."

Godless Americans promote a secular society and don't want government associated with religion at all. It opposes Christmas being a federal holiday and any mention of in the Pledge of Allegiance or on U.S. currency. Hagan said she doesn't support the group's agenda.

Ads may cost Dole

Voters were curious about Dole's ads and the rebuttal aired by Hagan, in which she talks about her faith.

"When I saw [Dole's ad] I was really surprised, if it's true, that she [Hagan] is that type of person," said Tom Dodgen, a retiree from Gastonia and an admirer of Dole's. "Then I saw the opponent's ad saying she's a Sunday school teacher. Something's not right."

In a Greensboro shopping center, Karen Smith told Hagan: "Dole did you a favor." The 58-year-old paralegal said she voted for Dole in 2002 and had planned to do so again until the "godless" ad ran.

"I was a Dole fan before this," said Smith, who said she'd vote for Republican John McCain for president. "I just think this is a below-the-belt, dirty, nasty way to try to campaign."

Dole told reporters it is "purely a truthful ad.

"She chose to go. The question is why and what does she think about the agenda of the group. It has nothing to do with her faith," Dole said.

She spent Saturday telling supporters Hagan is "wobbly" and has refused to take stands on important issues.

Hagan, who has argued that Dole is an ineffective leader, denied the assertion.

"We've accepted every statewide debate on the issues," Hagan said. "Elizabeth Dole will not debate me on the issues."

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