From The Times Washington Bureau

AND HE IS US: In Tennessee, where two U.S. Senate seats are at stake, Republicans are benefiting from contrapuntal advertising by the Democratic candidates, Rep. Jim Cooper and incumbent Sen. Jim Sasser.

Cooper's campaign against Republican Fred Thompson makes much of renouncing political action committee money. That doesn't help Sasser, whose campaign is fueled by PAC money. At the same time, Sasser attacks his opponent, Bill Frist, as a rich man, indirectly damaging Cooper, who is one of the wealthiest men in the House.

Further complicating matters is the ad campaign of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Bredesen, who regularly denounces the influence of Washington. Two guesses where Cooper and Sasser make their living.


BIG TENT: President Clinton's apparent vulnerability and a wide-open Republican field have prompted a growing number of GOP luminaries to explore White House bids for 1996.

Not all are household names. Among them is Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a moderate who is well-known as one of Anita Faye Hill's toughest cross-examiners during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Specter has formed a political action committee called the Big Tent PAC to broaden the base of the Republican Party. The PAC, which has raised about $83,000, also helps fund Specter's travels around the country to urge Republicans to reach out to women, minorities and blue-collar voters even as others pull the party to the right.

"We made a mistake in 1992 by not confronting the issue early on," Specter said. But carving a niche for himself may be difficult in a field that could include such relative Republican moderates as California Gov. Pete Wilson or Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld, if both are reelected next week.


HELLO, SAILOR: The Hawaii GOP candidate running against Democratic Rep. Patsy Mink has all but vanished from the campaign scene. A Republican Party spokeswoman said Wednesday that the party had virtually no contact with elusive candidate Robert Garner, who won a surprising victory in the September primary but is trailing Mink badly in the polls.

"We heard he's off sailing on his boat," the spokeswoman said. She had just one phone number for Garner, a beeper. It did not work. How about a number for his campaign headquarters? "We assume it's on his boat," she said. State GOP Chairman Jared Jossem calls Garner "an extremely independent Republican."


BOOSTING CRIME: Add AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland to the growing list of critics of the media. Kirkland, in a rare press briefing, said "market driven" television reporting on crime and violence has been in part responsible for boosting public concern with crime to the point that it "blankets out" other issues on the labor agenda, such as health care reform.

"If you want to look at the Zeitgeist , that's one of the factors in it," he said. And, in general, Kirkland maintains, the crime issue contributes to Americans' current sour, anxious outlook: "The public sees the failure of government at all levels to achieve the role of safe streets and the removal of fear from their lives."


POLITICAL MONSTER: Vice President Al Gore dressed as Frankenstein at a Halloween party he and wife, Tipper, hosted last weekend. But for good Democrats, Gore was far from the scariest sight on the front lawn. That honor went to a 13-year-old posing as House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and carrying a sign that said: Speaker of the House.

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