Down to The Wire

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ON THE TRAIL: In the candidates' televised debates Stoiber performed above expectations — but failed to dent Schröder's composure

Gerhard Schroder is a survivor. Three years ago, when his Social Democratic Party (SPD) lost six straight local elections because of his government's tight-fisted budget policy, Schröder's future appeared bleak. But along came a slush-fund scandal to tarnish the leadership of the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), giving Schröder an unexpected boost. Only a month ago, the outcome of Germany's Sept. 22 parliamentary elections seemed boringly easy to predict: unemployment had hit 9.6%, and most polls suggested Schröder would lose by a wide margin to his conservative challenger, Edmund Stoiber. But thanks to two sudden crises — a flood disaster and...

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