Off Beat

"Please stay on the phone for an important message from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life." Potential voters across the state have been hearing this recorded greeting in recent weeks. Then: "Sen. Paul the most pro-abortion senator Minnesota has ever had. Paul Wellstone is so radical that he has voted repeatedly against a ban on gruesome partial-birth abortions."

All quite predictable, of course: An anti-abortion group attacking a pro-choice senator. And it'll be just as predictable when the Minnesota chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League does the same to Wellstone's pro-life opponent, Norm Coleman. "We will be doing ads, we'll be doing phone calling, we'll be busting our asses on this race," confirms Timothy Stanley, the group's executive director. Both campaigns, naturally, will disavow any connection to the mudslinging.

What's a little surprising about the MCCL spiel, though, is the next-to-last line: "Paul Wellstone is working with a group of senators who are doing everything they can to block Bush's judicial nominees," the anonymous voice intones.

"That's simply not true," counters Wellstone campaign spokesman Jim Farrell, who points out that the senator was instrumental in shepherding through the nomination of Minnesota jurist Joan Lancaster to a federal judgeship in April, just three months after she was nominated by Bush.

MCCL executive director Scott Fischbach did not return two phone calls requesting comment.

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