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GOP targets Cleland early 

One day after the U.S. Senate's vote to confirm John Ashcroft as attorney general, the race for one Senate seat began -- sort of.

Republican fax machines whizzed and beeped Friday to single out Sen. Max Cleland, D-Georgia, as an "extremist" supposedly out of step with Georgia voters. In one press release, the state party compares Cleland to senators Hillary Clinton and Edward Kennedy. In another, the state's eight Republican congressmen "scold" Cleland, one of 42 Democratic senators to vote against Ashcroft.

Several of those congressmen are said by Republicans to be interested in running in 2002 against Cleland.

"Sen. Cleland's vote against Sen. John Ashcroft is a striking example of a senator ignoring his Georgia constituents and listening to liberal interest groups in Washington instead," Rep. Bob Barr, R-Smyrna, says in the House members' statement.

Barr and his colleagues praised Sen. Zell Miller, one of eight Democrats to back Ashcroft and a vocal supporter so far of President Bush.

Republican activists say Barr, Mac Collins of Jackson, Johnny Isakson of Marietta and Jack Kingston of Savannah appear to be exploring the possibility of taking on Cleland.

Ashcroft drew fire for his opposition to all abortions and to civil rights laws that he may now be required to administer. The 42 votes against him could be significant. They indicate that Democrats could muster enough votes to wage filibusters against controversial Bush nominees for federal judgeships.

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