- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

James H. Webb Jr. is sticking close to his Democratic friends and held rallies with political heavy hitters yesterday, while Republican Sen. George Allen is standing with local leaders at much smaller meet-and-greets as Virginia’s U.S. Senate race enters its final days.

Mr. Webb, who holds a slight lead in most polls, joined Sen. Barack Obama and Virginia’s top Democrats at an overflowing midday rally in Richmond before appearing at a sold-out fundraiser with actor Michael J. Fox and former presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark in Arlington last night. Mr. Webb will hold an Election Eve rally with former President Bill Clinton, his second appearance in Virginia this year.

Mr. Webb said the energy at the Clarendon Ballroom last night is “what carried us from a deficit of 33 points at one point to a lead” in the polls.

Mr. Allen, meanwhile, nabbed the endorsement of the border-enforcement group the Minutemen and today plans to attend small events with local leaders in Hampton Roads, including an appearance at the Chesapeake Fire Academy graduation.

“I shook hands with well over a thousand folks in there,” Mr. Allen said yesterday after greeting the 2,500 workers at the Philip Morris cigarette-manufacturing plant in Richmond.

His advisers have not outlined their strategy for planning low-turnout events nor have they released a formal schedule for the campaign’s final weekend, but Mr. Allen yesterday said he was glad to meet with tax-paying “working people.”

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and former Govs. Mark Warner and L. Douglas Wilder revved up the more than 700 attendees at the Obama rally at Virginia Union University yesterday. They said Mr. Webb has priceless momentum heading into Tuesday’s election.

The national names guarantee Mr. Webb good television coverage, but the current and former governors are key local boosters.

“This is like the Dream Team and ‘American Idol’ and all that all rolled up into one,” Mr. Kaine said. “I can feel the energy all across this commonwealth.”

Although Mr. Webb has been attached at the hip to Mr. Kaine, Mr. Warner and Mr. Wilder and has brought in the Democratic party’s top fundraisers and cheerleaders in recent weeks, Mr. Allen has not announced plans to bring any Republican stars to Virginia for the final days of campaigning.

President Bush appeared at a Richmond fundraiser for Mr. Allen last month, and first lady Laura Bush also raised money for the Republican.

Mr. Allen has been on the campaign trail with respected Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and will be joined by members of the state’s Republican congressional delegation in coming days.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee implored his supporters in a recent e-mail: “The President and I have relied upon George Allen over the last years to cast critical votes on legislation important to our efforts to move America forward.”

Mr. Allen recently has brought in lesser-known Republican senators including Elizabeth Dole and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, David Vitter of Louisiana and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona is the biggest name who could feasibly come to Virginia, but his staffers did not return calls asking whether he will.

Mr. McCain has starred in television ads and raised money for Mr. Allen.

The endorsement from the Minutemen political action committee will help Mr. Allen with his conservative base. Mr. Allen opposed the Senate’s “comprehensive” immigration plan and favors strong border enforcement instead of a “path to citizenship” for illegals.

Mr. Allen is running ads saying that if Mr. Webb is elected, he would reward illegal aliens with amnesty.

Through Monday, both candidates will touch down in all the state’s regions, but none of Mr. Allen’s upcoming events are expected to generate the type of excitement seen by the screaming Obama fans yesterday.

Rally attendees shoved themselves at the Illinois Democrat to ask for autographs and screamed until they were hoarse when Mr. Webb alluded to Mr. Obama’s presidential ambitions.

“He needs your help, he needs people to volunteer, he needs people to make phone calls, he needs people to do whatever it takes,” Mr. Obama said, adding he is “absolutely confident” that work will lead to a Webb victory.

Mr. Allen would be wise to avoid another Bush visit, even though he is a major crowd draw.

Last fall, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore was hurt by an election-eve rally with the president, whose popularity at the time was sinking but higher than it stands today.

In Arlington last night, a crowd of about 900 gathered at the sold-out event at the Clarendon Ballroom, while people outside sported anti-Bush-Cheney signs and sold stickers saying: “Bill Clinton lied about sex — George Bush lies about everything.”

Mr. Fox and Gen. Clark said they support the Vietnam War veteran because he’s a “man of integrity.”

“Senator Allen needs to hear from you, a vote for Jim Webb is a vote for the hope of a better quality of life for millions of Americans,” said Mr. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease and has become a national symbol for the debate over stem-cell research.

“We owe it to our families, we owe it to our neighbors, and we owe it to future generations,” Mr. Fox said. “We are not unrealistic. We realize it may take years before the promise of stem-cell research is realized, but we need scientists and researchers to start now with the full support of the federal government.”

Mr. Webb said he relies on scientists who say research could hold the key to breakthrough cures for Alzheimer’s disease, spinal-cord injuries and Parkinson’s.

In July, Mr. Allen supported Mr. Bush’s veto of a bill allowing federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research.

“I am for stem-cell research but not the kind that would destroy human embryos,” Mr. Allen said yesterday.

Christina Bellantoni reported from Richmond.

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