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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 09/98: US midterms  
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US midterms Monday, 2 November, 1998, 17:33 GMT
Smear tactics in New York race
Republicans on the attack
[an error occurred while processing this directive]As the mid-term elections draw near even hard-boiled New Yorkers have been taken aback by the savage tone of the campaign commercials put out by Republican Senator Al D'Amato and Democrat challenger Charles Schumer.

The seat is one of the closest of all in the 3 November vote which could have a decisive impact on the impeachment investigation into President Bill Clinton.

Mr Schumer hits back
In his latest TV advertisement Senator D'Amato has gone for the jugular accusing his rival of putting politics over people and missing more than 100 votes.

''Chuck Schumer: Full time pay. Part time work,'' runs the voice over.

But within hours the Schumer camp paid for its own commercial accusing Mr D'Amato of ''lying again''.

''The Truth: Chuck Schumer has a 92% lifetime attendance record. D'Amato. Too many lies for too long,'' went the blurb.

''Senator Pothole'' courting controversy
There has also been uproar over Mr D'Amato calling his opponent a "putzhead", a Yiddish term that literally means "penis-head" but used to denote a fool or a jerk.

A chagrined Mr D'Amato initially denied making the comment in a closed-door meeting with Jewish supporters, but was soon forced to acknowledge it.

Advertising executive David Garth says the negative campaigning in New York leaves a bad taste - and reflects badly on politics as a whole.

He said American political debate had reached a new low - thanks in part to the fall out over the President's affair with Monica Lewsinsky.

''The President has done 'these terrible things' and now the candidates are doing 'terrible things' - there is a lowering of the morality of politics in general,'' he added.

Democrats sneaking ahead

Mr D'Amato, nicknamed ''Senator Pothole'' for his interest in constituents' everyday concerns, has spent 18 years in the Senate, where he heads the powerful Banking Committee.

He is well known as a foe of liberal causes from abortion rights to arms control and for his campaigning for compensation for Holocaust victims.

But two new polls show Mr D'Amato could be ousted by Mr Schumer, a strong advocate of gun control, who has spent 18 years in the House, where he represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens boroughs.

The New York Post/Fox5 tracking poll showed Mr Schumer with 43.9% of likely voters, compared with D'Amato's 37.5%.

No slowing down

Despite his proclaimed lead, Mr Schumer can take nothing for granted. And neither, for that matter, can President Clinton.

In marginal seats like New York, Mr Clinton is extra keen to get his allies elected so his Republican opponents will not have the two-thirds Senate majority needed for impeachment.

And with Republicans launching multimillion dollar ad blitzes attacking the president's character, Mr Clinton will need all the help he can get.

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