BERLIN -- Chancellor Helmut Kohl's dramatic drop in popularity has turned today's formerly sleepy state election in the Rhineland into one of the year's most hotly contested and controversial races.
Although the election is for control of a state government, it has centered on Mr. Kohl, who has become such a liability to his party that he has even hinted at his retirement in an effort to deflect voter anger.
Celebrated only a few months ago as the "unity chancellor," Mr. Kohl now draws few crowds. His quick about-face on a promise not to increase taxes as well as his absence from the national discussion about how to help eastern Germany and about Germany's role in the Persian Gulf war have transformed him from hero to goat.
This has turned the election in Mr. Kohl's home state of