* Appeals to religious voters dominate new TV ads
* Serra says was consistently against abortion
* Rousseff still favorite but race seen tighter
By Stuart Grudgings
RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 8 Brazil's two presidential
candidates made their strongest appeals yet to religious voters
and sharpened attacks on each other on Friday as they drew
battle lines for this month's runoff vote.
In her first television campaign slot since she narrowly
failed to win the election outright in Sunday's first round,
Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Workers' Party began by thanking
God and repeatedly mentioned her faith and "respect for life."
Her campaign also tackled head on rumors that circulated on
the Internet about her stance on abortion which are believed to
have cost her crucial votes from evangelical Christians.
"In the second round, I want to have a campaign that above
all is in defense of life," said Rousseff, a former chief of
staff to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and who in the
past has supported more abortion rights in the world's most
populous Roman Catholic country.
Rousseff, 62, said she had suffered a "slanderous" campaign
and wanted to focus on comparing the eight years of the Lula
government with the previous administration led by the centrist
PSDB party, from which her rival Jose Serra hails.
"We will debate with a lot of clarity which one of the two
models of government is better for the country's future."
Full coverage of election: [ID:nBRAZIL]
Election Top News page: link.reuters.com/dux43p
Story on religion and politics in Brazil [ID:nN08210571]
Special report on Rousseff: link.reuters.com/fab25p
Political risks in Brazil: [ID:nRISKBR]
In Serra's TV spot, several pregnant women were shown
holding their bellies as the 68-year-old former health minister
claimed he had always been against the procedure, which is
illegal in most cases in Latin America's largest country.
Serra, who got a new lease on life by surviving Sunday's
vote, said he would "defend Brazilian family values --
democracy, respect for life and the environment."
POLLS SEEN TIGHTENING
Both candidates are angling for the nearly 20 percent of
the electorate that voted for third-placed candidate Marina
Silva, an evangelical who was Lula's environment minister.
Rousseff, who is riding Lula's popularity and a booming
economy in her first election campaign, might have reached the
50 percent of votes needed for a first-round victory if not for
the effect of a corruption scandal involving a former aide and
the late desertion of values voters to Silva.
Rousseff won 46.9 percent of votes, with Serra on 32.6
percent and Silva getting 19.3 percent. Silva's Green Party is
due to announce in the next two weeks which candidate it will
support in the Oct. 31 runoff.
Most analysts say Rousseff remains the favorite and could
become the first woman to lead Brazil. But the race is expected
to tighten in upcoming opinion polls, energizing an opposition
party that had seemed almost down and out.
Rousseff's left-leaning Workers' Party and its ruling
coalition are expected to step up their attacks on the
opposition's record while it was in government in the 1990s,
when Brazil still suffered from economic instability.
"Brazil doesn't want to go back to the past," her
advertisement said, after listing the Lula government's
achievements such as the millions lifted out of poverty.
Serra seemed to try to preempt such criticism by praising
the contribution of Lula's predecessor, Fernando Henrique
Cardoso, who is widely credited for laying the groundwork for
Brazil's economic boom.
The strategy of portraying the PSDB as elitist and in favor
of privatization proved successful for Lula in his 2006 runoff
against PSDB candidate Geraldo Alckmin. Alckmin was put on the
defensive and never recovered as Lula accused him of wanting to
sell off state-owned companies.
(Editing by Todd Benson and Anthony Boadle)