“She’s no Jesse Helms,” a Republican activist in North Carolina says of GOP Sen. Elizabeth Dole, whom polls now show trailing in her bid for re-election to the seat she won in 2002, succeeding the venerable conservative stalwart.
Dole’s problem is not issues or ideology, said the activist, it’s that (a) until recently, Dole had spent most of her time in D.C., not N.C., and (b) she’s done a poor job of constituent services, compared to her predecessor.
“Jesse Helms wrote the book on constituent services,” the activist said. Helms “spoiled” North Carolinians with his willingness to assist with their complaints, but some Republicans who were donors to Dole’s 2002 campaign now vow, “I’m not going to give her a dime. . . . When I had a problem, she didn’t return my call.”
The Democratic National Committee began targeting Dole with negative ads last fall and has kept up the pressure, spending more than $4 million against her — their biggest investment in any Senate race. Going into the campaign’s stretch run, however, Dole has an enormous financial edge against her Democratic challenger, state Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro. As of Sept. 30, Dole had $12.9 million cash on hand to Hagan’s $4.8 million.
Meanwhile, although recent polls show Barack Obama leading John McCain in North Carolina, the GOP activist expressed doubt the Democrat can carry the state. “You’ve got a lot of people here who just aren’t going to vote for a black guy, no matter what. . . . That’s just the way it is.” Yet Obama has advertised heavily in the Tarheel State. From Sept. 28 through Oct. 4, Obama spent $1.2 million on TV ads in North Carolina, compared to just $148,000 for McCain.