- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sen. George Allen began his re-election campaign yesterday with a fly-around tour of Virginia, but the presidential hopeful would not commit to serving out a full, six-year Senate term.

During stops in Manassas, Richmond and Hampton, the first-term Republican said if re-elected he would work to strengthen U.S. borders, support troops, make the federal tax cuts permanent and keep “activist judges” off the bench.

But at each stop he was questioned about seeking the presidency in 2008, just two years into his new term if he is a winner in November.

“I am running for re-election,” Mr. Allen told reporters. “The future is now, and my job is as a U.S. senator. People will speculate [but] this is all about winning this year.”

He added, “We’ll worry about the future when we get to the future.”

Mr. Allen calls himself a “common-sense Jeffersonian conservative” and told supporters he will govern with that in mind.

“That means I trust free people and free enterprise, I don’t like limits, I don’t like restrictions and I don’t like nanny government mandating and dictating to people,” he said.

Mr. Allen said Congress needs to secure the Mexican border with virtual and actual fences, and add more detention centers and personnel there. Once that is done, lawmakers can deal with the estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal aliens in the United States, he said.

Mr. Allen, 54, has served as a state delegate, congressman and governor, as well as senator.

His service as the Virginia chief executive started the Republican resurgence in the state, and included reforms such as the abolition of parole, changing the welfare system and creating educational standards that have received national accolades.

Mr. Allen did not mention his two Democratic opponents, who will face off in a June 13 primary, nor did he mention President Bush, whose approval ratings have plummeted.

The Democrats on the ballot — James Webb, a secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, and Harris Miller, an information-technology executive — are apparently making inroads portraying the senator as a poor leader.

“The race has changed significantly,” said Mark Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University. “Six months ago, no one would have predicted it would be a competitive election. I think [Mr. Miller and Mr. Webb] are formidable candidates. These are not the kind of token candidates that incumbent senators normally get.”

Both hopefuls have criticized Mr. Allen’s national travel and his recent comments that the pace in the Senate is “too slow.”

“Clearly, he continues to be a guy who doesn’t focus on his job,” Mr. Miller said. “He has used his Senate term, rather than for the people of Virginia, to really start a presidential campaign.”

“It’s obviously been in the news that he thinks the Senate is too slow, and he is looking for a bigger challenge,” said Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny-Todd. “Jim Webb certainly thinks Virginians deserve more than a half-hearted approach to this Senate race.”

Both Democrats note Mr. Allen has been to Iowa and New Hampshire multiple times, with stops in South Carolina and Florida — all key presidential primary states.

Still, polls show Mr. Allen with high statewide popularity and a more than 20 percentage-point lead over either Democrats.

The polls also show voters are worried about the Iraq war.

Mr. Allen said yesterday it will be a “long war,” because “there’s no substitute for victory.”

Mr. Allen is on the same side as most voters supporting the proposed marriage amendment to the Virginia Constitution, which will also be on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Among the proposals in his stump speech: giving the president a line-item budget veto, withholding pay from lawmakers if they are late passing a federal budget and researching ways to make the United States energy independent.

At each stop, local and statewide leaders praised Mr. Allen for his dedication to the Old Dominion.

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, said he and Mr. Allen are a good team voters should keep in place.

Reps. Thomas M. Davis III and Frank R. Wolf, also Virginia Republicans, lauded Mr. Allen for his support of widening Interstate 66 and other local issues.

Mr. Allen was elected in 2000, ousting incumbent Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb.

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