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Ted happily courts "Kennedy country' to strike at GOP foe

Republican Senate candidate Mitt Romney offended one of Boston's biggest neighborhoods with a wisecrack made during a debate against Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Kennedy was quick to capitalize on the mistake in a campaign stop Friday in Dorchester, the neighborhood Romney criticized during Thursday's debate.

"Dorchester, in many respects, is what this election's about _ hard-working men and women that want to make a difference for themselves and for their families," Kennedy said to cheers.

During the candidates' second and final debate, Romney said he once visited the formerly Irish, now ethnically mixed Democratic bastion and was told he was in "Kennedy country."

"I looked around and I saw boarded-up buildings and I saw jobs leaving and I said, "It looks like it,' " Romney, who trails in polls, said to audience laughter.

Dorchester was once home to Boston's Irish aristocracy, and many stately homes still stand. But the drug trade and other urban woes have turned sections of the neighborhood into seedy, dangerous areas.

On the nearby Southeast Expressway, a union local's electronic signboard flashed the message "Kennedy country, and proud of it."

NANNY FALLOUT: Immigration authorities in Los Angeles have begun an inquiry into whether Republican Senate candidate Michael Huffington broke the law when he employed an illegal immigrant as his daughter's nanny for four years, officials said Friday.

Huffington, a Republican congressman who made a tough stand on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his campaign against incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein, admitted Thursday that he "made a mistake." But not a big mistake _ he compared the offense to running a stop sign.

Huffington, a wealthy oil and gas heir, also acknowledged that he failed to pay taxes on the woman's salary for about a year.

Since 1986, federal law has made it a crime for employers to hire illegal immigrants.

NRA PUTS MONEY WHERE VOTES ARE: The National Rifle Association's political action committee spent $1.1-million, most of it in television and radio advertising for Republican Senate candidates in the first 19 days of October.

The ads, featuring actor Charlton Heston, attack incumbent Democrats who voted for the crime bill ban on assault weapons.

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