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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Analysis - Stuart Rothenberg

Rothenberg One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.

N.Y. Senate race still tight

'Hitler' ad an issue in Kentucky

By Stuart Rothenberg

New York Senate Sen. Al D'Amato is facing the type of candidate he's never faced before: someone just like himself. And that's the main reason why Republicans are now worried about the senator's political future.

Polling generally shows the race between Republican D'Amato and Democratic challenger Charles Schumer neck and neck. One media poll had the senator over 50 percent and with a considerable lead, but other surveys show the two candidates each drawing between 44 percent and 46 percent of the vote.

The Republican has maintained a fund-raising advantage of a few million dollars, but both candidates have spent lavishly and have been able to get their messages out.

Schumer, who has emphasized his record on crime and support for the death penalty to neutralize expected GOP charges that he is too far to the left, has hammered D'Amato's record on the environment, abortion, guns, women's issues and Social Security, always painting the Republican as too conservative. D'Amato, who began his re-election effort by moving to the ideological middle, has portrayed the Democratic congressman as a high tax, big spending liberal.

Schumer's advantage in the race is that he is as tenacious and aggressive as D'Amato. Unlike then-New York State attorney general Bob Abrams, whom D'Amato beat in 1992, or political unknown Mark Green, whom the senator defeated in 1986, Schumer is a tough, well-funded opponent who can take advantage of D'Amato's weaknesses.

The Republican senator, however, has sought to take advantage of Schumer's Brooklyn political base, hoping that the Democrat won't sell in the suburbs or, particularly, upstate. And D'Amato has been hammering Schumer's attendance record. One recent D'Amato TV spot includes a breast-cancer survivor crediting the senator for getting "another $100 million for breast cancer research," adding that Schumer "missed that vote."

President Bill Clinton recently went to New York City for a Schumer fund-raiser, and both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Al Gore are helping in fund-raising. On the GOP side, Gov. George Pataki (R), a D'Amato ally, apparently is doing what he can to help the senator's re-election effort.

D'Amato recently got a good break when a judge ruled that a referendum about the future of Yankee stadium could not appear on the November ballot. Local political observers thought that the referendum would boost turnout in the Bronx, bringing more Democrats to the polls and helping Schumer.

D'Amato has reached out to constituencies that are normally considered Democratic, and he knows how to run strong campaigns. But Schumer is proving to be a formidable foe. The polls show quite persuasively that the New York Senate contest is a real horse race.

'Hitler' ad an issue in Kentucky

Kentucky Senate The open seat race between Republican Jim Bunning and Democrat Scotty Baesler has turned into a bare-knuckled battle focusing on Social Security, taxes, education and the two campaigns' tactics.

Polling suggests that Bunning and Baesler are in a tight fight, though Republican insiders appear to be more upbeat and optimistic than their Democratic counterparts.

The hottest topic of the Senate race has been a Bunning ad that used footage of Baesler at a Kentucky political event. The spot included close-up shots of the Democrat, pounding the lectern and screaming about a number of issues. In the background of the ad was Wagner, the German composer identified with Adolph Hitler.

Baesler's campaign complained bitterly about the ad, arguing that the camera shots and music were intended to make him look like Hitler. The Louisville Courier-Journal, the largest newspaper in the state, editorialized about the ad, strongly criticizing the Bunning campaign. But the Republican's campaign decided against pulling the ad or altering it in any way, fearing that that would be seen as an admission of guilt and prolong the issue.

Baesler, who voted against the Republican impeachment vote, hopes to rally Democrats to his campaign, while Bunning continues to hope that his conservative views and attacks on Baesler will attract conservative Democrats to his campaign.

Baesler started this race with a slight edge, but heavy GOP spending and advertising has changed that. Democrats hope that Bunning has made a mistake with his controversial TV ad, and that he will make more. As Election Day nears, it seems clear that this race will go down to the wire, though with insiders betting that Bunning has a slight edge.

Election '98 Visit our Election '98 special section for all the hot races, state-by-state info and Congressional Quarterly's candidate profiles.


1998 State Primary Special


1998 Gubernatorial Ratings
10-16, 8-10, 7-20, 6-30, 6-8, 5-19, 4-29, 4-6, 3-16, 2-24, 2-2

1998 House Ratings
10-29, 10-27, 8-5, 7-3, 6-23, 6-2, 5-13, 4-21, 3-30, 2-12

1998 Senate Ratings
10-20, 9-28, 9-14, 7-28, 7-6, 6-15, 5-27, 5-5, 4-13, 3-24, 3-3, 2-9

Taking stock as Election Day draws near (11-02-98)

What are '98's top races? (10-27-98)

N.Y. Senate race still tight (10-20-98)

A tight North Carolina Senate race (10-16-98)

Illinois' Sen. Moseley-Braun faces an uphill battle (9-28-98)

A tough race for South Carolina's Sen. Hollings (9-14-98)

Republicans Upbeat About Indiana's 10th C.D. (8-10-98)

'Carpetbagger' Label Could Hurt Maine Challenger (8-5-98)

GOP Looks For A Beachhead In Massachusetts (7-28-98)

A Surprising Challenger For Minnesota's Rep. Luther (7-20-98)

Dems Target Rep. White In Washington's 1st C.D. (7-13-98)

An Opening For Democrats In Wisconsin's 1st C.D. (7-6-98)

Kentucky's Open House Seat Contest Sets Up Ideological Struggle (6-30-98)

Democrats Have A Shot In Ohio's Competitive 1st C.D. (6-23-98)

More Rothenberg reports for 1998
6-15, 6-8, 6-2, 5-27, 5-19, 5-13, 5-7, 5-5, 4-29, 4-21, 4-13, 4-6, 3-30, 3-24, 3-16, 3-3, 2-24, 2-16, 2-9, 2-2, 1-29


Tuesday, October 20, 1998

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