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Dole kicks off N.C. fly-around today

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, under fire for a controversial campaign ad she ran against her opponent Kay Hagan, kicked off a six-stop fly-around of the state in Charlotte on the eve of Election Day.

Hagan, a Democratic state senator from Greensboro who's trying to unseat Dole, planned to spend Monday greeting voters in the eastern part of North Carolina, at a breakfast stop in Wilmington, a courthouse in New Bern and a barbecue place in Goldsboro. She also plans to attend Barack Obama's rally in Charlotte this evening.

Dole, a Republican seeking her second six-year term in the Senate, said she'd been the subject of $18 million in attack ads in the campaign from Hagan and a host of outside organizations.

"You've got to respond forcefully," she said at an airport press conference.

An already ugly campaign drew national attention last week when Dole began airing an ad about Hagan's attendance at a Boston fund-raiser. It was co-hosted by about 35 Democratic supporters, and held at the home of a member of the Godless Americans PAC, a group that wants to remove references to God from government venues.

Hagan initiated a lawsuit against Dole over the ad, saying it was defamatory. Her campaign says an equal amount has been spent against Hagan in television attack ads.

A new Mason-Dixon poll of 625 likely voters interviewed Wednesday and Thursday showed Dole up 46 percent to 45 percent for Hagan, with a 4 percentage point margin of error.

But several other polls have Hagan leading. She is up 54-44 in a Public Policy Polling survey of 2,100 voters taken Friday through Sunday.

Dole said she didn't know if the "godless" ad had helped her, but she said folks had a right to know that Hagan was at the fund-raiser and whether she supports the Godless Americans' agenda. Hagan says she doesn't.

The latest Elon University Poll found that 59 percent of North Carolinians said this election year has been more negative than past contests, and 90 percent said they'd seen negative ads.

Asked specifically about the Dole-Hagan race, 48 percent had a negative impression of Dole ads and 38 percent had a negative impression of Hagan's campaign.

After leaving Charlotte, Dole planned to stop in Asheville, Greensboro, Morrisville, Greenville and Wilmington before returning to Charlotte on Monday evening for an election eve rally with other Republicans at Jay M. Robinson Middle School.

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