- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

RICHMOND — Sen. George Allen was able to hold Virginia’s conservative strongholds Tuesday, but his margins of victory were too slim to save his seat and retain the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.

The Associated Press last night called the race for Democrat James H. Webb Jr., who led Mr. Allen by a little more than 7,000 votes. Though it is within the recount-triggering margin of three-tenths of a percent, Allen aides told the AP he will issue a statement today and is unlikely to pursue a recount.

An amendment defining traditional marriage captured 155,000 more votes than Mr. Allen’s re-election bid, indicating that many voters approved of the measure but preferred Mr. Webb, a former Navy secretary under President Reagan.

Exit polls showed that Democrats, conservatives and independents who were frustrated by the Iraq war abandoned Mr. Allen and favored Mr. Webb, a Vietnam veteran whose son is serving in Iraq.

Mr. Allen had trouble securing his conservative base in the final weeks of the campaign, evidenced by the difference in results between his election to the Senate in 2000 and Tuesday’s tallies.

He won Republican-leaning Henrico County by 1,020 votes Tuesday. In 2000, he won Henrico by more than 9,500 votes in his victory over Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb.

Virginia’s nail-biter stunned the nation as its resolution determined control of the Senate. Elections officials today will recheck their tallies.

The results show that the state is changing, with a growing population in Northern Virginia, and that Mr. Allen is a different candidate than the one who unseated Mr. Robb six years ago.

Mr. Allen was forced to campaign as part of the establishment instead of as an outsider with a platform for reform, which was key to his success in 2000 and in his gubernatorial race in 1993.

Until recently, he was a staunch defender of President Bush’s Iraq war policy, and many voters preferred Mr. Webb, an early opponent of the unpopular conflict.

“The state has changed on him, big time,” Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd said.

In addition, several missteps prompted his peers to rate Mr. Allen’s as the worst-run campaign in the nation. Many Virginians faulted him for numerous gaffes, including his “macaca” moment.

Tuesday’s results also suggest that Virginia is becoming more Democratic, especially in the growing outer suburbs of Northern Virginia.

“I don’t think the traditional punditry of dividing the state into different regions is always correct,” said former Gov. Mark Warner, who in 2001 upset an eight-year Republican streak in gubernatorial races.

Analysis of unofficial results shows Mr. Allen lost five counties Tuesday that he had won in 2000 — Alleghany, Montgomery, Nelson, Prince William and Rappahannock.

In 2001, Mr. Warner won three of those, and in last year’s governor’s race, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine won all five of those counties.

The most dramatic shift was seen in Prince William, which Mr. Allen won by 7,760 votes in 2000. He lost it Tuesday to Mr. Webb by more than 2,000 votes, according to the unofficial results.

Mr. Allen lost several hundred votes from cities such as Winchester and Danville. In Fairfax City, Mr. Allen lost by 100 votes in 2000 and by 1,100 votes Tuesday.

The Allen campaign was bogged down with questions of character and negative ads that turned off voters on both sides.

Mr. Allen and national Republicans ran ads in October aimed at their conservative base, signaling that they had not secured this key voting bloc. The ads said that Mr. Webb would give illegal aliens amnesty and would raise taxes.

Exit polls showed that Mr. Allen’s strategy of hitting Mr. Webb on taxes worked on voters worried about their April 15 bills, but it wasn’t enough to deliver him a victory.

Others said they felt Mr. Allen pandered to the wrong audience to shore up centrist support for a 2008 presidential run.

Brag Bowling, a commander with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said Mr. Allen slighted the heritage group when he dismissed the Confederate flag as a racist symbol in hopes of capturing black votes and position himself for a White House bid.

“Does anyone think George Allen could have used our votes yesterday?” Mr. Bowling asked his supporters in an e-mail. “It portrayed Allen as a panderer willing to jettison his political base to appeal to a national audience.”

An Associated Press exit poll showed black voters overwhelmingly favored Mr. Webb.

Some conservatives said Mr. Allen’s attacks of Mr. Webb’s 1979 position on women in combat played to feminists and made Mr. Webb appeal to men. Three-quarters of voters in the AP exit poll said they think Mr. Webb respects women.

n Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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