Saturday, October 28, 2006

[senate] 4 key mid-term races


Canada has already become ensnared in the Tennessee race, thanks to a Republican attack ad that took a shot at Ottawa, triggering the demand for an official apology.

The 30-second ad was actually aimed at Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr., who hopes to become the first black man elected to the Senate from the South in more than a century.

But the ad also took aim at Canada's supposed lack of initiative on the world stage, using an actor who said it didn't matter if Ford was unconcerned by nuclear threats.

"Canada can take care of North Korea. They're not busy," he says.

The severe attack ad came as Republican candidate Bob Corker found himself unable to overcome a near tie with Ford in the polls. But political analysts argued that in the end, some voters may cast their vote based on the ethnicity of the candidates.

The same ad also shows a white woman with bare shoulders, who says she met Ford at a "Playboy party" and seductively whispers to him: "Call me."

While that would seem completely innocuous to most people, mixed-ethnic relationships can still cause controversy in Tennessee. Democrats angrily responded to the ad, saying it was designed to spark anger among racists, who would then vote Republican.

"In a Southern state like Tennessee, some stereotypes still exist," Hilary Shelton of the NAACP told AP.


The tough race in neighbouring Missouri has been marked by another controversial ad, in which Edmonton-born Michael J. Fox appeals to Democratic voters.

In the commercial, Fox asks residents to support Democrat Claire McCaskill, because she supports stem cell research. The actor has Parkinson's disease, which he said could one day be cured by advances in the scientific field.

Republican Sen. Jim Talent, who hopes to win a second term, stands against any more federal funding for such research.

In Missouri, the political aspect of the stem cell controversy is heightened by a ballot issue -- Amendment 2: Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. Advocates of the initiative say it would protect the right of Missouri patients to have their injuries or illnesses treated by any stem cell therapy approved by federal law.

In Fox's ad appearance, the effects of Parkinson's are clearly visible on his body, which constantly shakes as he tells viewers: "They say all politics is local, but it's not always the case. What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans -- Americans like me."

While born in Canada, Fox is a U.S. citizen.

A response ad has been made using other celebrities, who dismiss the Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative as dangerous and a waste of money. Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, simply tells Missouri residents to "vote no on 2."


Just a few months ago, Virginia Sen. George Allen was looking at possible support for a 2008 run at the presidency. Now, the Republican is just trying to hold on to his seat, after he called someone a "macaca."

The comment was made months ago, when he used the term to describe a volunteer for Democratic rival Jim Webb.

The volunteer is of Indian descent. Macaca is a little-known racist slur originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, used against people of African descent. The term is believed to come from the word macaque.

Allen also seemed to become uncomfortable when asked by a reporter about the recent revelation his grandfather was Jewish. In an awkward response, he said: "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops."

Republicans have now spent US$1.4 million in television ads to help Allen recover from those blunders. But his most troublesome comments may revolve around his support for the Iraq war.

Allen is now softening his stance, allowing that the U.S. strategy in Iraq needs to change. He told AP: "The situation there is one that needs adjustments, that needs changes in tactics. We need to adapt to the situation on the ground."

His rival, former U.S. marine Jim Webb, has always been against the war -- a stance that an increasing number of voters in the state seem to lean towards. And he has had big-name support: both former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, have helped in his campaign.

With Allen and Webb now in a tight race, Allen has attacked his rival for once saying women were unfit for military combat.

He also disparaged Webb's literary merits -- the Democrat has been writing novels for the past 30 years, with titles like A Sense of Honor and Something to Die For.

Allen said there are sexually explicit passages in some of Webb's work that are obscene and insulting to women.

New Jersey

America's Garden State has been staunchly Democratic for the past 34 years, but that could change when voters head to the polls on Nov. 7.

Republican strategists hope to unseat Sen. Bob Menendez, and their efforts seem to be working: polls now show the Democrat almost tied with Republican Sen. Tom Kean Jr., a state senator -- sort of the American equivalent to a Canadian provincial parliament member.

Part of Kean's political ammunition against Menendez is allegations of corruption, which he has repeated endlessly to reporters. Kean, however, has not been convicted of any such charges.

"We need to clean up corruption at every level of government. I am tired of seeing politicians of both parties run out of county courthouses with raincoats over their heads," Kean told CBS News. "I am tired of our state and our leaders being made fun of on Jay Leno and David Letterman."

In one attack ad, a campaign worker for Menendez can be heard allegedly taking part in a kick-back scheme. But the audio is of such poor quality it's difficult to match with the accompanying subtitles.

Meanwhile, Menendez has shot back at Kean, challenging him for supporting the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. Menendez has claimed he would never have voted for the U.S.-led invasion.

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