- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2006

Democratic lawmakers say their U.S. Senate candidate, James H. Webb Jr., must follow the party’s script of making inroads in Southwest Virginia to defeat incumbent Sen. George Allen, a Republican, in the November election.

“If I’m a betting man, I’d bet on George Allen to carry the Southwest,” said state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, Tazewell Democrat. “But we will do anything we can to make this close.”

Mark Warner essentially wrote the script when he became governor in 2001 by dominating in Northern Virginia, which is largely Democratic, and not getting steamrolled in the state’s Republican-heavy southern regions.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, followed the plan last year in defeating former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican.

“If we get 46 [percent] to 47 percent of the rural vote statewide, [Mr. Allen] can’t win,” said Dave Saunders, a volunteer for Mr. Webb in Southwest Virginia.

Virginia Republicans say that analysis is overly optimistic because Mr. Warner and Mr. Kaine did not face a politician as established as Mr. Allen, whose 20-year political career in the state has evolved from being delegate in the General Assembly to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives to governor to senator.

According to a Rasmussen poll released in late July, Mr. Allen leads Mr. Webb by 10 percentage points, 51 percent to 41 percent.

Mr. Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former Republican who was secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, is a political newcomer whose appeal is in part based upon his distaste for the role of money in politics.

However, getting enough money to reach voters throughout the state has been made difficult by that stance.

“He has to raise the money to communicate,” said state Sen. Robert Creigh Deeds, Bath Democrat. “He has a compelling story to tell, [but] if you can’t communicate with the voters, you can’t compete.”

As of June 30, Mr. Webb had $424,000 in campaign funds, compared with Mr. Allen’s $6.6 million.

“I haven’t seen any evidence of [Mr. Webb’s] campaign at all in [Southside Virginia],” said Delegate Robert Hurt, Chatham Republican. “Quite frankly, when you look at Senator Allen’s record in Southside Virginia, I don’t see anything Webb can bring to the table that would sway voters away from Senator Allen.”

Mr. Webb recently benefited from the free publicity created by Mr. Allen calling a Webb campaign staffer of Indian descent “macaca” during a rally in the town of Breaks, on the Kentucky line.

Macaca is a species of monkey, and the word can be translated to mean a racial slur. Mr. Allen has since apologized.

“It’s a long time until the election,” Mr. Puckett said. “People tend to forget those kinds of things,” unless Mr. Webb tries to makes it a campaign issue.

He said Mr. Webb will get help in the southern part of the state from Democrats also going to the polls to re-elect 12-term Rep. Rick Boucher, but the election is “not going to be won in the Southwest or Southside.”

Mr. Webb is expected to remind voters while campaigning in the south about his deep family roots in the region that are detailed in his most recent book, “Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.”

“We got a good horse,” Mr. Saunders said. “You don’t have to tell him to stomp his foot when he hears bluegrass. Those movements, it’s genetic, and he has the right genes.”

Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd said: “When we get out there, and as people get to know Jim, he will be the natural choice.”

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