Fresh from alienating black voters over the Ronnie White fiasco, will Sen. John Ashcroft take on Catholics in his drive to defeat Senate rival Gov. Mel Carnahan?

First, the "cost of getting even" with Nixon was too high: "It cost us a federal judge."

"The second lesson," Nance said from the Court House steps, "is that when you lay down with snakes, you're going to get bit."

In the end, Ashcroft has to be careful that next year's senatorial race doesn't mutate into a holy war, the born-agains vs. the mackerel-snappers. In Ashcroft's attempt to paint Carnahan as soft on crime, he will directly point, or allude, to Carnahan's granting the request of Pope John Paul II to not execute convicted killer Darrell Mease. Only in Missouri would a Baptist from Rolla be painted as a papist sympathizer by an Assemblies of God member from Springfield.

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