Raleigh, N.C. — With less than three weeks left until Election Day, Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Democratic challenger Kay Hagan are slugging it out in advertisements and media interviews.
The two candidates haven't appeared together since a June debate at the North Carolina Bar Association's annual meeting. Since then, the race has tightened significantly.
Four months ago, Dole held a double-digit lead in the polls. In a WRAL News poll done in June, for example, she led Hagan by a 53 to 39 percent margin. In a similar poll done last week, Hagan held a 49 to 44 percent lead.
Dole attributes the loss of her lead to a blizzard of negative ads, many of which link her to President George W. Bush, whose approval ratings are at historic lows.
"(When you have) $10 million coming in against me in negative, ugly, nasty, untruthful ads, that's going to have some effect," Dole said.
Hagan countered that her campaign has focused on her record in the state Senate, which she says in more in tune with the priorities of North Carolina voters.
"I'm running a very positive campaign. I'm getting out all over the state, (and) what I'm doing is I'm showing a contrast," she said. "In 2005, (Dole) was only in North Carolina 20 days, and in 2006, only 13 days."
Dole calls Hagan's numbers "absolutely inaccurate," adding that she knows North Carolina through and through as a Salisbury native.
"I travel on my own constantly. In other words, I should not be punished for not charging the taxpayers for my travel," she said.
Meanwhile, Dole questions whether Hagan is qualified to be a U.S. senator, saying she doesn't understand federal issues. Her campaign's latest ads criticize Hagan for dodging issues in interviews and speeches.
"I think Kay has dodged a lot of answers that would help people better understand what she knows," she said.
"I've served for 10 years in the state Senate. I understand legislation," Hagan said. "People can come to me with their issues. I've also got numerous plans on my Web page, whether it's the economy, health care, veterans, minorities (or) women."