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No More Mr. Nice Guy

Democrat Bill Bradley, declaring he'd "had it," said Thursday he would stick with the more confrontational stance he took with rival Al Gore in the final debate before the New Hampshire presidential primary.

In the bristling campaign debate Wednesday night, Bradley accused Gore of campaign dishonesty and flip-flops on abortion. The vice president retorted that Bradley was responsible for dragging the campaign into the mud.

Today, Bradley said at a frigid outdoor rally that "it's a fresh start" for the campaign with only days before New Hampshire's leadoff primary. "Last night I decided I'd had it," he said. "We're going to call my opponent on what he's been doing."

The former New Jersey senator said he was tired of what he saw as campaign distortions by Gore and would aggressively underscore those differences in the final days before the voting.

Gore also was forced to defend his voting record on abortion today.

He was appearing on a New Hampshire public radio call-in show when a woman who identified herself as "Sara" accused him of lying about his abortion record in the debate. "I don't know how I can support your candidacy if you're so dishonest on national TV," she said.

Gore replied, "I have always supported Roe vs. Wade. I have always supported keeping abortion legal. And it's true, early in my career I voted to restrict the use of federal funding in some circumstances, but over the years I've come to the view that federal funding ought to be available."

On Monday night, Gore argued that Bradley had lowered the tenor of the campaign. That was after Bradley fired the first salvo, accusing Gore of inconsistency on abortion rights.

"All I can say is it's politics as usual," Bradley said of Gore. "It's 1,000 promises and 1,000 attacks. A promise to every special interest group and attack, attack, attack."

Gore said Bradley has been forced to apologize for his campaign attacks. "Look, Bill, we've had some heated disagreements in this campaign but let's keep it to the substance of the issues. I haven't accused you of lying," Gore said Wednesday night. "The people out there are tired of that."

Bradley accused Gore of knowingly distorting the record, thus raising questions about character. Gore charged that Bradley is the one on the attack.

"Why should we believe you will tell then truth as president if you won't tell the ruth as a candidate?" Bradley said. Gore labeled that "a negative personal attack" and noted that Bradley has pledged a higher standard.

"So if you're going to talk about a higher standard, you're going to have to live by them," said Gore.

The exchanges reflect polling that shows a competitive race between the two in New Hampshire. Bradley was beaten badly in the Iowa caucuses Monday, and some strategists say he suffered by not responding quickly enough to Gore's charges.

Aides have signaled that Bradley would be much more aggressive in the final days of the campaign here.

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