- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 4, 2006

MARION, Va. — Virginia’s candidates for U.S. Senate rallied party faithful across the state yesterday, urging voters to get to the polls Tuesday.

Sen. George Allen and James H. Webb Jr., locked in a tight race that is likely to determine control of the Senate, made their final sales pitches to voters while stumping with their political allies.

Mr. Allen, a Republican who has served one term, stopped at regional airports from Winchester to Abingdon. The former college quarterback tossed around a football and touted his support of President Bush’s tax cuts, border security, energy independence and the constitutional amendment on the Virginia ballot defining traditional marriage.

“We’re in the two-minute drill,” Mr. Allen told the crowd in Danville. “Everyone needs to execute. We need to call. We need to e-mail.”

Mr. Webb took a harsh tone at the end of the evening.

“Running against George Allen is like living in a sewer. I wake up every morning — I have to hold my nose,” Mr. Webb said.

Mr. Webb, a Democrat, spent the day with the state’s current and former governors on the annual Democratic swing through mountain towns in southwest Virginia’s “Fightin’ Ninth” Congressional District. He said the race is “one of the most important elections in at least 30 years.”

“We’re talking about the direction of the country,” said Mr. Webb, an early critic of the Iraq war.

Mr. Allen has blindly supported Bush, former Gov. Mark Warner said, but Mr. Webb will “bring that independent voice” to the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Webb, a former Republican who served as President Reagan’s secretary of the Navy and assistant secretary of defense, said the forthcoming editorials in the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times calling for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s ouster are “amazing” and “hugely significant.” The weekly newspapers are all published by Army Times Publishing Co., a Gannett subsidiary in Springfield, and not by the Defense Department.

“I think people ought to really look at that seriously,” he said after a rally in Pulaski.

“I don’t think Rumsfeld is doing the kind of job that the country needs, but I’m not in a position to say he should be fired,” Mr. Webb . “He works for the president, not for the Congress.”

Mr. Allen portrayed Mr. Webb as a cog in the wheel of national liberal Democrats such as Sens. John F. Kerry and Hillary Rodham Clinton, while Mr. Webb said Mr. Allen is using “Karl Rove” tactics to divide and mislead voters.

A minor fracas broke out at the Allen rally in Weyers Cave when police handcuffed liberal blogger Mike Stark after it appeared he knocked over someone as he tried to ask Mr. Allen about his arrest record.

The Allen campaign has said the two 1974 summonses were for unpaid parking tickets and fishing without a license.

Mr. Stark, who says he has no ties to the Webb campaign, made headlines last week when Allen supporters tackled him to the ground at a campaign stop in Charlottesville after he confronted the senator.

Democrats said the momentum seems to be with Mr. Webb, who was tied Thursday with Mr. Allen at 49 points in a Rasmussen Reports poll of 500 voters.

“This thing about momentum,” said Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. “We can feel it, but it only really happens if we do all we can in the next couple days, because this is going to be very, very, very close.”

Mr. Allen teamed up yesterday with Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and Republican Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, men who know close elections.

“Every single vote is going to count,” said Mr. Thune, who unseated Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in 2004 after losing in 2000 by 500 votes.

“You get Wednesday off, but until then we need you to get out the vote,” agreed Mr. McDonnell, who won his election by less than 400 votes.

Each of Mr. Webb’s events, held at high schools and government centers, drew packed crowds. The smallest was about 150 and the largest about 400.

Of Mr. Allen’s rallies, the largest had 300 people.

Mr. Allen today will campaign at tailgate parties at the Redskins vs. Cowboys game in Landover and will hold a rally in Northern Virginia with former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. He also plans a 2-minute commercial tomorrow night in all major media markets.

Mr. Allen’s message played well with 60-year-old Basil Clark of Winchester, who said he is glad the senator has recently backed off his “stay the course” message. “I can understand where he was then, and I am grateful where he is not,” Mr. Clark said.

Mr. Webb today will finish the Southwest Virginia tour with rallies in Grundy, Tazewell County and Big Stone Gap, joined this time by former Sen. J. Robert “Bob” Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat and president of the New School; and Cecil E. Roberts, president of United Mine Workers of America.

Mr. Webb stayed in this region following the 23-year tradition of Virginia Democrats, who join Rep. Rick Boucher the final weekend of each campaign.

The Democrats highlighted Mr. Webb’s military credentials and lengthy list of medals from his service in Vietnam.

Voters at each of Mr. Webb’s stops said they view the election as a chance to change the direction of the country.

“The election should be about changing the Congress and stopping the direction they are going on torture and wars of choice,” said Joan Moore of Montgomery County.

Dana Pack, an independent from Wythe County, said he has changed his own mind about Mr. Allen since he voted for him in 2000. “He’s done a mediocre job,” he said.

• Christina Bellantoni was with the Webb campaign and Seth McLaughlin was with the Allen campaign.


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