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Inhofe on attack again in Senate race

Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe has a reputation for tough campaign tactics, as his Democratic challenger is finding out the hard way.

An Inhofe ad being carried on Oklahoma television stations contains anti-gay overtones, showing a wedding cake topped by two plastic grooms and a photo of the Democratic candidate as a young man, curly haired and wearing a leather jacket.

Andrew Rice has responded with a commercial saying the attacks are "not true" and an indication Inhofe will do anything to keep his job, while avoiding talking about such issues as energy and the economy.

"He's trying to morph me into something I'm not. What he's doing is attacking my character," Rice said Wednesday of the ad, which calls Rice "too liberal for Oklahoma."

Inhofe said the ad is accurate. He pointed to news stories that Rice, before he became a state senator in 2006, founded a group that opposed a constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriages.

Painting foes as liberals is nothing new for Inhofe, who takes credit for being the "most conservative member of the Senate."

Inhofe was elected to the Senate in 1994 after a nasty campaign in which a man wearing a Pinocchio mask was hired to heckle Inhofe's Democratic foe, then-Rep. Dave McCurdy, at public events.

That year gave birth to a "God, Guns and Gays" strategy benefiting the senator, who supported school prayer, opposed gun control and gays in the military.

Inhofe, in a telephone interview from Washington, recalled that 14 years ago he was told by a small group in Hugo that he would carry McCurtain County, a Democratic stronghold in southeastern Oklahoma.

He said he asked the Hugo residents why he would win, "and they said because of the three G's. They're the ones who came up with that and it became almost a chant out there."

Rice has trailed Inhofe in recent public polls by more than 20 percentage points, but he said internal polling shows the race much closer.

"I feel we have a very good chance of pulling this out by Nov. 4," said the 35-year-old state senator, who is married to an Oklahoma City doctor. They have two children.

So far, Rice has raised only about $2 million, compared to $6 million collected by Inhofe, who has bought television advertising time through Election Day.

Inhofe said his reputation as a negative campaigner is undeserved, but he also believes it is vital to define your opponent, especially one who is not well known at the start of a race.

Keith Gaddie, a University of Oklahoma political professor, said the Rice camp is trying to turn the tables by saying Inhofe's ad "represents the old way of doing things, where all you do is slash and attack your opponent."

Gaddie said the Inhofe commercial is a "rather witty and swiping cut" at Rice, but its timing is curious.

"There's an old saying that if you have a good October ad, you don't run it in September," he said. "So you have to wonder what's next?"

Rice said the negative ads against him show he is doing better in the race than some think.

Inhofe said he is not taking any chances. He said he is not worried about Rice, but is concerned he will be attacked by "the Hollywood crowd" for his views, including his stand that global warming is a hoax.

Rice planned a series of press events this week to highlight his energy ideas. He has repeatedly referred to Inhofe as an extreme partisan who has voted against tax credits for wind power and other alternative energy programs.

He said Inhofe should support a bipartisan energy plan pending in the Senate that is pushed by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, labeled "the Gang of 20."

"If I were in the Senate, it would be the Gang of 21," Rice said. He said the plan, which allows for some offshore drilling, is a compromise that would get the nation rolling toward energy independence.

Inhofe said he would not vote for the plan, which he criticized for not permitting drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge.

He said five of his "best friends" had caved on the GOP idea of more expansive drilling. Inhofe has said the public's demand for more drilling has given Republicans a winning issue on the campaign trail.


On the Net:

Inhofe ad linking Rice to gay marriage:

Rice's response:

Ron Jenkins, AP Writer © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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