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For this election, here's mud in everyone's eye

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An old rule of politics used to say: Go positive in the final days of the campaign but, in today's politics, rules are made to be broken.

Here we are on the day before a bitterly-contested midterm election and the mud is still flying through a barrage of attack ads that are booked through the time the polls close on Tuesday.

Here in Virginia, the Senate campaign between Republican incumbent George Allen and Democratic challenger Jim Webb is one of the dirtiest I've seen in more than 40 years of covering politics as a journalist and working inside the political system as an operative.

Allen, an incumbent thought safe just a few months ago, may go down Tuesday because of his personal bigotry and professional corruption. His stumbles started when he called a native Virginian of Indian descent "macaca" and increased when former classmates at the University of Virginia came forward to reveal Allen's racist rhetoric while attending college.

That might have been forgivable had not Allen continued his racist ways after entering politics. I heard him call African-Americans "niggers" in 1984 and again in 1991. Others have since come forward to reveal a long history of racism and bigotry by the Virginia Senator.

But Allen is also a crook. An Associated Press investigation revealed he took millions in stock options from companies he helped while governor of Virginia. Then he tried to cover it up by failing to report the options on his financial disclosure reports.

You'd never know Allen is the corrupt racist, though, based on his unrelenting attacks on Webb over novels the Democrat wrote 14 years ago. Allen's campaign ads, paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, accuse Webb of sexually-demeaning attitudes towards women and even being a deviant because his novels contained some steamy sex scenes.

I've read Webb's novels. He's a hell of a writer and his books about dealing with the stress of Vietnam hits home to those who were there. The scenes about how veterans treated wives and girlfriends after returning from that war are frighteningly real.

But what a novelist writes a decade-and-a-half ago is hardly important and the fact that Allen is using it shows the desperation of his campaign and the depths to which the Republicans are willing to sink to try and hold on to power. Allen's racism in college might have been an old story as well had he not continued to use racial epithets as a state legislator and a candidate for Congress.

This is an election where Republicans have dug deep into the mud to smear the opposition. The blatantly racist ad the Republican National Committee ran against Harold Ford in Tennessee sought to stir up Southern stereotypes of black men chasing white women and played on the fears of the ignorant that make up so much of the GOP base.

On Meet the Press Sunday, North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole sucker punched her Democratic colleagues by claiming a Democratic victory on Tuesday was a victory for terrorists and other enemies of the United States - a charge so slanderous that civility on the show evaporated and host Tim Russert tried vainly for call a time out.

The Democrats can't claim the high road. They have launched vicious attack ads based on misleading information as well buy my own review of ads run by both sides show the GOP with a 3-1 edge in slinging the mud.

If Republicans manage to hold on to power Tuesday - and the odds say they won't - they will owe that victory to running the most sleazy, vile, lies-filled campaign I have witnessed in 40 years.

Let's hope voters see through the mud, the lies and the sleaze. If they do, Tuesday could be the first step to taking our government back from the crooks and returning it to the people.

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Doug Thompson published his first story and photo at age 11 -- a newspaper article about racism and the Klan in Prince Edward County, VA, in 1958. From that point on, he decided to become a newspaperman and did just that -- reporting news and (more...)

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