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Special Report

Washington Post Ombudsman Makes Striking Observation About Paper's Political Coverage

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Dems Cheerful, GOP Grim

Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell writes that her paper's coverage of Virginia Republican Senator Ben Cardin was not critical enough — calling it "relentlessly positive"— while the paper underplayed a story about several prominent black Democrats endorsing Republican Michael Steele— who is an African-American.

And Howell agrees with some readers that photographs in the paper tend to show Democrats looking cheerful and confident — and Republicans looking grim.

Congressional Endorsements

The New York Times says for the first time in memory it is not endorsing a single Republican Congressional candidate in tomorrow's elections.

The Times has always sprinkled in endorsements of moderate Republicans based on their records. It has endorsed current candidates Christopher Shays and Nancy Johnson as far back as 1990 —- and also favored past Republicans such asSusan Molinari, Lowell Weicker and Rick Lazio.

But now The Times says House Republicans have "wrecked the budget, hobbled the middle class and endangered the long-term economy." It describes Republican Congressional leaders as "burned-out" and "brain-dead."

The Times says the election is about President Bush— and blames Congressional Republicans for "protecting him from the consequences of his mistakes and misdeeds."

Soldier's Mom Insulted

The mother of a soldier who died in Iraq is not happy with Nevada Democratic Senate candidate Jack Carter— the son of Jimmy Carter. Eleanor Dachtler tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she was insulted by a blind letter from the campaign asking her to participate in an event with Carter so he could criticize the president and Carter's Republican opponent and draw media coverage.

Dachtler said: "I thought, 'this guy is a BLANK.'" She got mad again when she saw Carter on TV with a group of paraplegics — saying she suspected the candidate was trying to exploit them, too.

Dachtler says several Nevada lawmakers — including Carter's opponent, John Ensign, were helpful to her after her son died. The Carter campaign says it did not intend to exploit Dachtler and meant no disrespect.

Service Sex?

A group trying to help elect Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill in Missouri got plenty of attention when it sent out a recorded phone message to tens of thousands of voters.

A Kansas City TV station reports some people who have caller ID saw a one-word display that read "service sex". Those possessed of curiosity and a little free time found that if they hit the callback button they were connected not to a company offering pornographic services— but to a company that services trees— which has no connection at all to the McCaskill campaign. It turns out the calls came from an organization called Emily's List— which is working with the candidate — and has no idea why the phone company routed the calls to the tree people.

As for the "service sex" display — an Emily's List spokeswoman says they left the caller ID blank — so the phone company automatically assigns a label reading "services extension."

Since some displays aren't that long — they read "service sex" instead.

—FOX News Channel's Martin Hill contributed to this report.