U.S. Sen. George Allen will reprise his role as a quarterback on the attack, while James H. Webb Jr. employs a defensive strategy in the final weeks before the election in Virginia’s Senate race.
Mr. Allen, a Republican, will try to steamroll Mr. Webb, a Democrat, with a barrage of political ads before the Nov. 7 election.
The strategy has so far forced Mr. Webb to deflect a different issue each day, but Mr. Allen has been most effective pummeling the Democrat on taxes and social issues to rally his conservative base.
“Jim Webb, Hillary Clinton and their liberal allies in Washington don’t want to give constitutional protection to traditional marriage,” an announcer says on an Allen radio ad. “And if they don’t share our values on something as basic as marriage, how can we trust them on any issue?”
The ad, which is running in rural parts of the state, is one of several that hit the airwaves this week to paint Mr. Webb as a liberal out of touch with Virginia values.
The Webb campaign fired back.
“All George Allen has left are lies,” Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny-Todd said. “The latest ad contains the baseless charge that Jim Webb wants to redefine marriage. Radio stations should immediately pull the ad.”
Mr. Webb, who served as secretary of the Navy under President Reagan in 1987-88, is appealing to centrist Republicans and voters fed up with the Iraq war.
The decorated Vietnam War veteran is no stranger to a fight, and has surrounded himself with tough and seasoned Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and former Gov. Mark Warner.
“We have an administration that is telling us that the global war on terror is World War three or four, take your pick, and that Iraq is the central battlefront on the central war on international terror,” Mr. Webb said at a recent campaign appearance in Dumfries, Va. “But ask yourself, how many of them are risking their own kid?”
Mr. Webb’s son Jimmy, a 24-year-old lance corporal in the Marine Corps, is in Ramadi, one of the most dangerous regions of Iraq.
The Democrat’s campaign said Mr. Allen’s marriage ad includes the false claim that Mr. Webb “would like to change the definition of marriage.”
Mr. Webb said that as a Christian, he thinks marriage should be between one man and one woman, but he plans to vote against the proposed amendment on the Virginia ballot because he thinks it takes rights away from all unmarried couples.
“We have a law right now that defines marriage,” he said at a debate Monday night. “We don’t need to ruin the Constitution.”
Mr. Allen also is telling voters Mr. Webb would repeal President Bush’s tax cuts, which forced the Democrat to run an ad rebutting the claim.
“Take a look in your wallet. Are you rich?” asks the Allen radio ad. “Jim Webb thinks you are. He thinks you don’t need a tax cut. In fact, he thinks you aren’t paying enough taxes.”
Mr. Webb’s ad responds: “George Allen’s lying again. Truth is, Jim Webb’s plan cuts taxes for middle class families and veterans.”
Mr. Webb, who benefited from free publicity after numerous Allen missteps over the past two months, dismissed Mr. Allen’s commercials this week as employing “Karl Rove” tactics and claims he is misquoted.
“What I’ve said is any tax breaks that benefit a large section of the American people, I am for,” he told reporters Wednesday.
But Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams responded: “It’s pretty clear that Webb’s refusal to agree to a ‘no-new tax’ pledge means what we all know, that he would join Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy in rolling back the tax cuts Senators Allen and Warner helped pass in 2001 and 2003.”
Several elements of Mr. Bush’s tax cuts are set to expire over the next few years if Congress does not renew them.