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Past, Present Presidents May Play Role In Senate Race

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RALEIGH, N.C. — While Democrat Erskine Bowles believes he is gaining ground in the U.S. Senate race, Elizabeth Dole is calling on President George Bush to help rally her troops.

Bush returned to North Carolina Thursday to support Republicans. Dole is tying her Senate bid to the president, who has backed her campaign from the beginning.

Political consultant Marc Rotterman said it is a smart strategy.

"The president won this state by 12 points. He's in the mid-70s as far as approval ratings, so it's a natural for them to do that," he said.

However, the Bowles campaign see things differently. A Bowles spokesman said "Elizabeth Dole is falling like a meteor out of the sky, and Air Force One is trying to catch her before she crashes to the ground."

Bowles served as chief of staff for Bill Clinton, who never carried North Carolina in a presidential election. Bowles has not invited Clinton to campaign for him. The only time most voters will see Bowles and Clinton together is in a Republican ad.

"I think they know he's a huge negative in this state. People don't respect him," Rotterman said.

The Bowles campaign says it has no plans to bring Clinton to North Carolina before election day.