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Dole on the Air in N.C.

Is Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) in trouble this November? It depends on whom you ask, but it certainly does appear that her race against state Sen. Kay Hagan (D) is at least beginning to creep onto the national radar as a potential pickup opportunity for Democrats, particularly if this turns out to be the "wave" year that some analysts are forecasting. So Dole isn't waiting until the fall to crank up her campaign, as she's now on the air with this ad:

What's the message here? It's not rocket science -- Dole is tough on illegal immigration, an issue that hasn't been on the front page as much recently as it was last year, but remains on the minds of voters. It's a particularly salient topic in North Carolina, which has seen a big influx of immigrant workers in recent years.

The ad combines a picturesque tour of North Carolina towns with the testimony of local sheriffs, who praise Dole for helping them get federal resources to combat illegal immigration, particularly the "hardened criminals" and "repeat offenders."

"She is one tough lady, with major league clout," says one sheriff, making for Dole what amounts to the classic incumbent's argument: I've got real power in the Senate. Why would you want to throw that away?

As for the overall status of Dole's race, one survey taken three weeks ago showed Dole leading Hagan by just five points. The Fix recently placed her seat as the 9th most-likely to change hands in the Senate. The Rothenberg Political Report still places the contest in the "Clear Advantage for the Incumbent Party" category, though that's one step below "Currently Safe."

Dole has a huge financial advantage -- as of mid-April she had $3.1 million in the bank, 10 times as much as Hagan -- so there'll be plenty more ads in the months to come, and she remains a popular figure in the state. But potentially competitive races seem to be popping up all over the map this year, so Dole is probably smart to get up and moving now, just in case that Democratic wave does hit.

By Ben Pershing  |  May 29, 2008; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign  
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