Debate about debates

Rob Christensen and Amy Gardner

October 2, 2002 

The Senate campaigns of Republican Elizabeth Dole and Democrat Erskine Bowles are expected to get together this week, perhaps as early as today, to work out details for several debates.

Both campaigns have agreed to one televised debate at Guilford College on Oct. 19. Representatives for Bowles and Dole met separately in Raleigh on Monday with the N.C. Association of Broadcasters, which is sponsoring the debate.

Still up the air is a proposed second television debate at Meredith College in Raleigh, which WRAL-TV and WTVD would broadcast. Also in question is a radio debate by WSJS in Winston-Salem.

There was the usual jockeying between campaigns about who was ready to accept the debate.

Mary Brown Brewer, Dole's spokeswoman, said that the two debates were originally proposed to be held this week but that the Bowles campaign was guilty of "foot dragging."

Susan Lagana, Bowles' press secretary, said the Bowles campaign knew of no debates that had been proposed for this week.

Abortion politics

Abortion-rights activists have launched a campaign to make abortion a deciding issue in U.S. Senate races across the nation, and North Carolina is on their list.

According to Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, candidates' views on abortion could decide Senate contests in at least 11 states.

In North Carolina, Republican Elizabeth Dole opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity, while Democrat Erskine Bowles supports abortion rights.

That may come as a surprise to some abortion-rights supporters, Michelman said in a telephone news conference Tuesday. And although North Carolina's Senate race is not as close as some others, Dole's opposition to abortion rights could make a difference.

"Once people know that Elizabeth Dole, whom many assume is pro-choice, once they learn that that she is not pro-choice, it really moves voters," Michelman said.

Michelman said NARAL will be mobilizing supporters to make phone calls and also will be sending out mail and broadcasting advertising. Look for some of that in North Carolina, she said.

New poll

Republican Elizabeth Dole is continuing to hold a 10-point lead over Democrat Erskine Bowles, according to a recent ABC Eyewitness News poll.

The survey found that 53 percent of the likely voters planned to vote for Dole, while 43 percent said they planned to vote for Bowles, with 4 percent undecided. The automated telephone poll, conducted by Survey USA of Verona, N.J., surveyed 728 likely voters from Sept. 23 to 25 for WTVD in Durham and WBTV in Charlotte. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Meanwhile, Democrats were touting some polling results by Anzalone Research, an Alabama polling firm that found that Dole's lead over Bowles in her native Rowan County was a narrow 48-45 percent margin. The results were found while polling for a Democratic state House candidate.

Staff writers Rob Christensen and Amy Gardner. Christensen can be reached at 829-4532 or robc@newsobserver.com.

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