RALEIGH — The races for U.S. Senate and two Triangle congressional seats have turned into bare-fisted brawls. The pressure will intensify in the next two weeks as candidates make some key strategy decisions.
Republicans, who planned to sail into office on the coat tails of the Clinton scandal, may be re-thinking their strategies. As election day draws closer, candidates are deciding whether a barrage of attack ads will help or hurt their campaigns.
U.S. Senator Lauch Faircloth calls Democratic opponent John Edwards a "Bill Clinton liberal" in his campaign ads. Republican candidates Dan Page and Tom Roberg have used the same tactic against their opponents, democratic U.S. Reps. David Price and Bob Etheridge. Some observers say the strategy could backfire.
"Doing that leads to other problems," UNC political science professor Thad Beyle said. "People get angry. They've heard enough, and they're firing these ads off into a situation where the economy is good."
The ads are attention-grabbers, but there is some doubt about whether they work. Polls show the Faircloth/Edwards race locked in a dead heat.
Page and Roberg are trailing their opponents. Roberg parted ways with his consultants recently, after months of hard-hitting ads against David Price. Roberg defends the ads he has already run, but says he did not want to turn up the heat.
"I think the tone of the ads that our previous consultants were working with were harsher than I was comfortable doing," Roberg said.
State Sen. Dan Page was the first to bring Bill Clinton into the picture. Page says his campaign is issue-oriented, but he is not backing away from Clinton's character as a campaign issue.
"I think it's important that the members of Congress or the congressman in the 2nd District take a stand on issues of character and integrity," Page said.
U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth has just hired a consultant that the Edwards campaign calls one of the meanest and nastiest in the country. The Faircloth camp says Edwards has one on staff who is even meaner.
Neither campaign says they are planning an attack, but both Edwards and Faircloth say they will defend themselves aggressively if that's necessary.