- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

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Republican Sen. George Allen and Democrat James H. Webb Jr. yesterday urged Virginians to go to the polls, as they crisscrossed the state in their final full day of campaigning in a race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

The uncertainty of today’s result was crystal clear yesterday, with the release of two competing polls — one giving Mr. Webb, a Vietnam War veteran, an eight-point lead and the other showing Mr. Allen, a former governor and congressman, with a three-point lead.

Voters also will decide on a constitutional marriage amendment that is expected to drive turnout among conservatives in rural Virginia and more liberal voters who oppose the measure in Northern Virginia. Turnout is expected to be 65 percent of the state’s 4.5 million registered voters.

Polls will open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. today.

As both candidates made stops in Richmond, Norfolk, Roanoke and Northern Virginia yesterday, they said voters have a chance to set the course of the nation.

Mr. Webb, a former Republican, ended his 10-month underdog campaign at a rally with former President Bill Clinton and more than 2,000 supporters in Old Town Alexandria.

“If you want America to take a different path, you to have to elect Jim Webb,” Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton’s visit prompted ridicule from Republicans who remember he lost in Virginia in 1992 and 1996 and that his last-minute visit for Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer in 1997 did not help the Democrat win the governor’s race.

“You can tell a lot about someone by the folks they keep company with,” Mr. Allen said in Norfolk, standing with Sen. John W. Warner, Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, Rep. Thelma Drake and former Redskins defensive end Deacon Jones.

“I’ll stand with these patriots closer to Virginia values and virtues than the group that my opponent is standing with,” Mr. Allen said.

Mr. Webb also was joined on the trail by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, former Govs. Mark Warner and L. Douglas Wilder and Rep. Robert C. Scott.

“You will not lose me in terms of my loyalties,” Mr. Webb told voters.

Mark Warner, a Democrat, didn’t mind that Mr. Allen was criticizing Mr. Webb’s friends.

“I’ll take that comparison. I think the people of Virginia are pretty happy with the way we govern,” he said.

Mr. Wilder agreed: “We’re going to win an upset … that will have the whole nation talking.”

Mr. Allen also criticized Mr. Webb as a friend of liberal Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

That theme carried on at each stop, which also included a solemn message from John Warner that he and Mr. Allen make a “good team.” It was the same plea he made in an appearance with Mr. Allen in a two-minute ad last night.

“He has 23 years of serving those in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and now six in the United States Senate and he needs no on-the-job training,” John Warner said in Richmond, to cheers from about 75 people in the overflowing room at the airport.

Mr. Allen, a former college quarterback, tossed a football at each event and called his supporters “teammates.” They responded: “Six more years.”

“Your enthusiasm is invigorating,” he said.

A few hours earlier at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, about 300 Webb supporters held signs and shouted, “Let’s go Jim.”

At that rally, at least one Webb voter ripped up a blue Allen sign. Another supporter held a sign that read: “Thanks, George Allen, for making me a Democrat.”

Mr. Clinton simplified Republican campaign strategy as: Vote for me, “because my opponent is a slug, and they are going to tax you into the poorhouse, and on the way to the poorhouse, you’ll meet a terrorist coming around the street corner, and when you try to run away from that terrorist, you are going to trip over an illegal immigrant.”

Immigration, taxes and terrorism were an ongoing theme in Republican stump speeches.

“Republicans look at every day as Independence Day, they like it to be the Fourth of July,” Mr. Allen said, paraphrasing President Reagan. “Democrats look at every day as April 15th.”

The final days of each campaign showed a marked difference in mood.

Mr. Webb, criticized privately by Democrats for months for having a stiff style, seemed relaxed, enjoying himself and telling more jokes.

Mr. Allen, looking tired and showing weight loss, said with a big smile that the Gallup/USA Today poll released yesterday shows he has needed momentum in the final hours.

At their first debate in July, both candidates agreed that no matter the outcome they would sit down together for a beer when it was over.

By yesterday morning, the mood had soured.

“I don’t think I will be drinking a beer with George Allen,” Mr. Webb said. “I said I didn’t want this to get personal, but I think he went too far.”

When asked whether he still planned to get that beer, Mr. Allen shook his head, laughed and said flippantly: “Yeah, sure.”

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

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