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Election 2006: The Slut, the Smut and Michael J. Fox

It’s two out of three.

That’s the easy way to think of it.

Tennessee, Virginia and Missouri.

The slut, the smut and Michael J. Fox.

You win two out of three, you control the United States Senate.

Tennessee, Virginia and Missouri.

The slut, the smut and Michael J. Fox.

If you’re a Democrat, it’s Ford, Webb and McCaskill.

If you’re a Republican it’s Corker, Allen and Talent.

You need two winners in your group. Three is home run. After all of that, all the yelling and the shouting, the calculating, the this’ing and that’ing, this is what it comes down to.

And how do you get your two winners?

With a much-debated war abroad, a midterm election that was a referendum on the president would make sense. And perhaps that’s how people will discuss it, afterwards.

But it’s not how anyone is discussing it right now.

Not really.

For the last week, what we’ve been talking about is Michael J. Fox, and the legitimacy of someone who knows something borne of personal experience and is listened to because of fame -- speaking out and using his fame. Is he immune from criticism?

Of course not. Witness the criticism. But does he have a right to use his fame? Absolutely. The other side has since recruited its own celebrities. The advantage in that one is pretty clearly (if anything is pretty clearly) to the more famous and not now acting Michael J. Fox.

Then there’s the slut. Now that everyone in Tennessee, not to mention the rest of the country, has seen the commercial enough times to believe there really was something going on between that playmate and Harold Ford Jr., the only question is which side benefits most or suffers most, for what has become the most explosive ad of the year.

The right is spinning that of course Harold Ford Jr. benefits from the backlash because he has been on all the national talk shows, which tells you nothing (or does it?) about what’s going on in Tennessee. The fact that the sponsoring group waited to take the ad off, notwithstanding the uproar, suggests they thought it was working and the uproar wasn’t hurting, which is troubling.

So is history, in tracking prominent black candidates such as Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who didn’t become governor of California even though polls forecast his victory, and Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, who didn’t become a United States Senator even though polls forecast that he would. Both men were pathbreaking black candidates. But there were only so many paths they could break.

In my book, Tennessee is the toughest of the three for the Democrats. But Virginia is plenty tough. Virginia is ugly. This is one no-class campaign.

Reaching into the buckets of old trash, literally, the Allen campaign found excerpts from fiction Webb had written as a novelist and released it as ... as what?

As an effort to discredit Jim Webb as the kind of person who would write man-boy fiction, which must be worse than the kind of person who would use the “n” word in real life or be embarrassed to be Jewish or call an Indian-American “maccaca,” all incidents along the troubled path of this year’s George Allen Senate campaign.

Note that the Allen campaign made no effort even to disguise who did this or avoid the comparison. That was the point. They are figuring they win. The Republicans are optimistic because, at least some of them, are looking at the slut and the smut and figuring that they could win this thing yet. In a sense, they’re looking at the voters, and that’s what they see. That, and gay marriage thrown in to boot. And they could be right you know. Just being realistic.

So no dancing, not yet. Not even close to yet.

For complete election coverage, visit You Decide 2006, FOXNews.com's special election section.

Click here to read Susan's response to your email.

Click here to link to Susan's new book, "Soulless."

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.

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Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission. A woman of firsts, she was the first woman president of the Harvard Law Review and the first woman to head a national presidential campaign (Dukakis). Estrich is committed to paving the way for women to assume positions of leadership. Books by Estrich include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders." Her book "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women," is a departure from her other works, encouraging women to take care of themselves by engaging the mind to fight for a healthy body. Her latest book, The Los Angeles Times bestseller, "Sex & Power," takes an impassioned look at the division of power between men and women in the American workforce, proving that the idea of gender equality is still just an idea.