- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

RICHMOND — In the final days before the U.S. Senate election in Virginia, both campaigns are focusing on a crucial ground game to get voters to the polls.

Sen. George Allen, a Republican, and former Navy Secretary James H. Webb Jr., a Democrat, are prepared for a long night Tuesday in case the result is too close to call.

Both men, who have spent months slinging political mud back and forth, will spend the remainder of the campaign trying to energize their supporters.

“Thunder’s impressive, but it’s lightning that does the work,” Mr. Allen said yesterday, quoting Mark Twain. “Susan and I may be the thunder, the lightning is all our grass-roots supporters all over Virginia.”

Mr. Webb said yesterday the folks on the ground are the reason he went from having no money and being more than 30 points behind in polls to leading Mr. Allen in the most recent polls.

“We’re going to go 24 hours a day until Tuesday morning,” Mr. Webb told supporters in Richmond yesterday.

Both campaigns would not outline their legal strategy if the victor’s margin is razor-thin, if a recount is needed or if there are problems with voting machines, but each has lawyers in place just in case.

“We are ready for that scenario if it were to occur,” said Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd. “We are covering all our bases.”

“It’s going to be a close election — we want to win by enough so we don’t have to worry about lawyers,” Mr. Allen said. “We need less litigation in our country.”

A recount certainly is possible, as Mr. Allen and Mr. Webb are locked in a tight battle, and last fall, the attorney general’s race in Virginia was decided by fewer than 400 votes following a long recount process and several court hearings.

Mr. Allen’s campaign Web site (www.georgeallen.com) encourages Virginians to “Vote early, vote Allen,” and asks for volunteers for the “72-hour get-out-the-vote team.”

Mr. Webb’s Web site (www.webbforsenate.com) asks voters to join “Jim’s Brigade” and to request absentee ballots so they are free to help on Election Day. “We need YOU!” it states.

Virginians also will see a barrage of political ads on television through Tuesday — ranging from attacks on character to upbeat, positive messages from each candidate asking humbly for their vote.

Both Mr. Allen and Mr. Webb will be aided by outside groups — including conservative and liberal bloggers — hoping to influence the election outcome.

The League of Conservation Voters is going door to door for Mr. Webb to educate voters on what they say is Mr. Allen’s worst-in-the-Senate environmental record and is encouraging Virginians to vote absentee.

The National Rifle Association is telling its 100,000 Virginia members that it has strongly endorsed Mr. Allen with an “A-plus” rating, though Mr. Webb has been given an “A” rating by the gun rights group.

State Republicans are putting their all into Mr. Allen’s turnout operation, especially in Northern Virginia where the party has suffered in back-to-back elections.

“It is time for all conservatives in Virginia to mount up and win the ground game for Senator Allen,” reads a post on the Allen-friendly “A-Team” blog (www.allens-a-team.com).

The blogger encouraged volunteers to drop literature and put up yard signs.

Mr. Webb has been getting advice from the last two statewide Democratic winners — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and former Gov. Mark Warner.

“I think Jim Webb’s got all the momentum, and I see nothing that’s going to change that in the next few days,” Mr. Warner said.

Yesterday, Webb volunteers handed out fliers asking for more help to make phone calls and talk to voters after they leave the polls on Election Day.

“We’re doing it out of zeal for the candidate,” said Hank Alden, a Henrico County resident and “sign captain” of the Webb volunteers.

As of Wednesday, there were nearly 4.6 million registered voters in Virginia.

Voters, who are not required to register by party, have been asking for more absentee ballots to vote early than in previous years.

State elections officials said more than 100,000 requests for absentee ballots were made as of last week.

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