George W. Bush and Al Gore, step aside. In certain states, the tight presidential race is taking a backseat to the even closer competition for seats in the U.S. Senate. And with the hours ticking down until the polls open tomorrow, the intense focus continues to build on three key northeast races that still remain too close to call. Perhaps nowhere in the nation is the Senate race under closer scrutiny than in New York, where first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is battling Republican Congressman Rick Lazio, a moderate Long Islander who entered the race after New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani pulled out of the race. Clinton -- who was born in Illinois, lived in Arkansas and resided in Washington, D.C., for the last eight years -- has drawn fire from Republicans and Clinton-haters nationwide for her decision to seek the New York seat being vacated by the retiring Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Labeling Clinton a "carpetbagger" who seeks the seat only to further her own political career, conservatives funneled money into Republican coffers and ran to the Empire State in droves to advise what they then thought would be a Giuliani candidacy. But when the well-known Giuliani dropped out of the race due to illness and a crumbling marriage, the GOP was forced to hastily organize a campaign to develop Lazio's name recognition and support among more conservative upstaters and suburban swing voters. Since then, Lazio has seen his celebrity status skyrocket, as he quickly vaulted up to virtually tie Clinton in a race that is likely to be decided by voters in suburban New York City -- a bloc that both candidates are counting on heavily to carry the state. Meanwhile, both candidates have drawn flack for allowing the tone of the campaign to become nasty and divisive -- especially on issues concerning the conflict in the Middle East. Two new polls have shown Clinton with a statistically insignificant lead over the Long Island congressman. In the neighboring state of New Jersey, a one-time landslide possibility has become surprisingly close as millionaire businessman Jon Corzine (D), whose campaign is largely self-financed, attempts to maintain his early lead over Republican Congressman Bob Franks. Corzine -- a political newcomer who has spent a record $60 million in his attempt to succeed retiring Sen. Frank Lautenberg -- has seen his lead crumble amidst criticism for his ferocious personal spending and calls that he is out of touch with New Jersey voters. "My opponent has no public record," Franks said. "What he has is money, lots of money." While the polls still show Corzine maintaining a single-digit lead, some say that the growing criticism of the race's finances -- Franks has spent just $3.5 million -- along with the surprising endorsements of Franks by the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, could give the GOP their first New Jersey Senate victory since 1972. Delaware has also produced an unexpectedly close Senate race, with five-term Republican incumbent Bill Roth, the 79-year-old chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, facing a tough challenge from a much younger Democratic challenger, Gov. Tom Carper. Both men remain tremendously popular throughout the state, but concerns have arisen lately considering Roth's health in the wake of a pair of collapses at campaign events. Doctors attributed the falls to a "middle ear dysfunction" and proclaimed the senator fit, though speculation has arisen as to whether Roth's experience and stature in the Senate are worth the risk of a potential health failure down the road. Roth continues to maintain a razor-thin lead in the polls. The Associated Press contributed to this article.Comments powered by Disqus
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