Carolina Legends Wrap Up Campaigns

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RALEIGH: In the Carolinas, two legendary southern Senators are winding up what will probably be their last elections. Republicans Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Jesse Helms of North Carolina each entered the last week of the race slightly ahead of his challenger after running campaigns from the same playbook, TIME's Lisa Towle reports from Raleigh. "As the races progressed, the margins have narrowed to within ten points," Towle reports. "As that has happened, both Thurmond and Helms have gone more on the defensive." When their leads were more comfortable, both men followed a policy of completely ignoring their Democratic opponent. Each still refuses to debate and will not even speak before the same audience as the Democratic challenger. For much of the summer, both have refused to respond to their opponents comments. The tactic has been more effective for the 94-year old Thurmond, who is almost a lock to defeat relative newcomer Elliott Close. "You just don't run a political novice against a political legend, no matter how old," Towle notes. In North Carolina, it's a somewhat different story. Helms' bitter, racially charged 1990 contest against former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt established Gantt as a legitimate contender. Since then, a coalition of politicians and civic leaders has registered tens of thousands of new voters -- many of them black. "It there is a pivot, it will be the dramatic increase in black voter registration since the last election. Black registration is up 31 to 34 percent in some urban North Carolina counties," Towle says. Polls give Helms an eight to nine point lead, but with low turnout expected nationwide, an energized black vote could make the difference for Gantt. To close the gap, Gantt has been forced to spend big money to match Helms' television spots. As much as anything, though, both Close and Gantt are battling mystique, and it's hard to erase decades of lore with a 30-second spot. -- Scot Woods