Senate control looms large over Virginia’s Allen-Kaine contest

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“If Tim Kaine doesn’t want it, it isn’t apparent to me right now,” said Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University.

Mr. Allen, the namesake of the legendary Washington Redskins coach, has described his 2006 loss to Mr. Webb as a “humbling experience” and has said it has given him time to learn and reflect.

George Allen never saw himself in this position — having to reclaim his Senate seat,” said Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University. “I think George Allen will live and breathe political campaigns and political ambition as far as he can take it. It seems less likely that he could call being governor and senator the capstone of a political career.”

‘This is what matters’

Mr. Allen has worked feverishly throughout the campaign to tie Mr. Kaine to President Obama — who plans yet another campaign stop Saturday in the Old Dominion, to which he traveled on the first official day of his re-election bid.

“We know we want a better direction for our country — whether it’s this health care tax law, whether it’s productive energy policy, whether it is the sequestration deal, which is just going to be so devastating to Virginia jobs — people want to see leadership in Washington that empowers individuals and small businesses to grow and thrive and create jobs,” Mr. Allen said.

Mr. Kaine has staked out subtle differences with Mr. Obama on a number of issues, such as letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire on income above $500,000 rather than Mr. Obama’s $250,000 threshold.

Tim Kaine and Barack Obama haven’t been dancing the salsa together,” Mr. Kidd said. “They’ve been dancing something more formal with some more space between them.”

But Mr. Kaine is also quick to defend his broader support of the president and realizes his fate will be linked, at least in part, to how Mr. Obama performs in Virginia, where he remains neck and neck with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

“Both Tim Kaine and George Allen are pretty affected by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney,” Mr. Kaine said. “[But] there are going to be some ticket splits. Just because Virginians know us pretty well, turnout is important, but continuing to persuade the last undecideds also is something I know we’re both really focused on.”

Mr. Allen has been employing a simple trope in his pitch to voters in recent weeks. Pay taxes? You should be on our side. Use electricity? You’re on our side. Drive a car and need some relief at the pump? Hop aboard. He clearly relishes being out on the trail, talking to people, listening to their stories and sympathizing with their concerns when he can.

“And, by the way, a place like Loudoun County — that matters a lot,” he said to the Sterling volunteers about gas prices. “As you all know, folks who live here don’t always work here. They drive long distances to and from work, or just carrying your kids around to activities. Our family lives in Mount Vernon. We play Loudoun County girls lacrosse teams, and it’s a project to get to Leesburg for a lacrosse game —north of Leesburg.”

Chris Saxman, a former Republican state delegate who represented Augusta County, said that personal touch is what makes the difference with voters — which could turn out to be a percentage point or two in this case.

“The down-ticket guys have to expect that their base is going to turn out — no question,” he said. “But you’ve got to get out and go for the other guys’ votes. All politics is personal. You have to give voters a reason to vote for you. You’ve got to reach into their hearts and say, ‘This is what matters to me.’”

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