- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

President Bush and former President Bill Clinton will host competing fundraisers in Virginia on Thursday for their favored candidates in the U.S. Senate race.

Mr. Bush will rally Republicans at an event for Sen. George Allen at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. Mr. Clinton will headline a soiree for Democrat-ic challenger James H. Webb Jr. at the McLean home of former Sen. Charles S. Robb. Mr. Allen unseated Mr. Robb in 2000.

The current president remains one of the Republican Party’s best fundraisers. This is his second visit to Virginia on behalf of Mr. Allen this year.

The Webb campaign told reporters last week that the Bush visit gives it an opportunity to remind voters that Mr. Allen has voted with the president 97 percent of the time since being elected to the Senate.

Mr. Clinton, who held a fundraiser for Democrat Timothy M. Kaine last year during the gubernatorial race, is expected to bring in a big chunk of cash for Mr. Webb.

Mr. Bush touched down in Air Force One on election eve last year to appear with Mr. Kaine’s opponent, Republican Jerry W. Kilgore, a visit many political observers think ultimately hurt Mr. Kilgore at the polls the next day.

Mr. Allen has a narrow lead or is statistically tied with Mr. Webb in most polls.

Meanwhile, Mr. Webb received the endorsement Wednesday of the Richmond Crusade for Voters, a 50-year-old nonpartisan organization that aims to increase the influence of blacks in the political process.

“We are not impressed with Mr. Allen’s Johnny-come-lately ‘sensitivity’ to the plight of minorities and the African-American community,” said Crusade President Melvin Law. “We do not appreciate nor admire his record. … Mr. Allen deserves nothing more than an F for his service.”

Mr. Allen, who as governor in the 1990s issued a proclamation in honor of Confederate Heritage Month, has been criticized for once hanging a noose in his law office.

Earlier this year, he lost the support of Southern heritage buffs when he said he realized the Confederate battle flag is seen by some as a symbol of hatred and racism.

• Not-so-nasty ads

Political ads in Maryland this year are using unconventional styles and have been far less negative than those in other states, researchers at the University of Maryland at College Park said.

“We’ve been closely analyzing political ads in the state, and so far, we haven’t seen the level of nastiness you might expect,” said Trevor Parry-Giles, a communication professor there.

He said the candidates may be avoiding “a costly backlash if they go too negative.”

Mr. Parry-Giles said ads by Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, are “innovative and compelling.”

The ads present Mr. Steele talking to the camera in a relaxed and conversational tone. Some feature Mr. Steele holding a puppy or with the puppy standing nearby.

Other props included a row of trash cans, which Mr. Steele indicates as symbols for negative attacks by his opponent, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic nominee for senator.

“The Steele ads are long on atmospherics and symbols apparently designed to sell his brand and to inoculate him from Democratic attacks linking him to President Bush,” said Shawn Parry-Giles, a professor of communications and director of the university’s Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership. She is the wife of Mr. Parry-Giles.

“Some of Cardin’s ads have been very simple — the very opposite of slick — using devices such as a shaky hand-held camera,” she said. “This could well be a deliberate attempt to draw a distinction between Cardin and Steele.”

The two professors have developed a Web site called “Political Advertising Resource Center” that is devoted to analysis of campaign ads. The site is available at www.umdparc.org.

“There’s a certain numbness that sets in as an election approaches, and the ads start to blend in to the wallpaper,” Mrs. Parry-Giles said. “Yet, political ads are one of the most important tools in a campaign arsenal. Citizens need to pay close, critical attention.”

• Thinking globally

Virginia can thrive in the 21st century’s global marketplace with an international airport and a major port, but it will falter if it cannot provide road and rail access to both, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine says.

Solving the state’s transportation difficulties, the governor told industry leaders, will require “some changes in faces” in the Virginia General Assembly.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat whose efforts to fund transportation in his first year in office have hit roadblocks in the Republican-controlled legislature, said he was not making a partisan statement.

“There are a lot of Republicans who want to solve problems,” he said, “and a Democrat or two who don’t.”

He urged the audience of about 700 at the annual Virginia Transportation Conference in Roanoke last week to support candidates next year who are problem-solvers.

Last month’s scheduled four-day special legislative session on transportation funding ended two days early because of philosophical differences between the Senate and House of Delegates leadership — the same differences that led to this year’s unprecedented budget impasse.

Simply put, the Senate wants tax increases, and the House Republican leadership is vehemently opposed. Mr. Kaine, who supports increasing taxes and highway “user fees” to finance transportation, acknowledged that he has had “a very challenging first year.”

“I’m not going to give up,” he said. “I’m staying at the table on this.”

The governor referred to Virginia’s listing by Forbes magazine as the most business-friendly state in the nation, but he said the state’s ability to compete in a global market-place will be the key to its futur.

The 27 million passenger visits a year at Washington Dulles International Airport could be increased to 50 million, he said, but more roads and rail access are needed in the traffic-clogged region.

The same is true of Hampton Roads, he said, where the port could become the busiest in the nation with dredging to accommodate even bigger ships.

“Are we going to be winners, or are we going to leave these great assets withering and dying?” he said.

• Seeking security

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, is hammering the Bush administration for cutting homeland security funding.

“Terrorism has a price … and we will either pay that price in dollars or in lives. I’d rather write the check,” Mr. Steele said in a keynote luncheon address at the 2006 Mid-Atlantic All Hazards Forum, a regional emergency-management and homeland security symposium last week at the Baltimore Convention Center.

“Any formula in this environment that cuts homeland security funding for Washington, D.C., and New York City, let alone the rest of the nation, is bad public policy,” he said.

Mr. Steele addressed the convention in his role as lieutenant governor, but the speech echoed his campaign platform on homeland security.

He also took a swipe at the Washington establishment, which was consistent with his run as a “Washington outsider” and his promise to be a “new kind of senator.”

“We can no longer have decisions made in isolated chambers in Washington and then dictated to the states and the local communities without some understanding and appreciation of what [first-responders] do every single day to protect and defend that little patch of ground you call home,” he said. “We have to be serious about this business because our enemies are serious about the business of coming after us.”

Mr. Steele is running against Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a 10-term Democratic congressman from Baltimore who also has called for more homeland security funding for “jurisdictions with the greatest risks and vulnerability.”

Mr. Cardin’s campaign strategy includes linking Mr. Steele to President Bush, who is highly unpopular in heavily Democratic Maryland.

In the speech, Mr. Steele did not name the president.

He cited the 40 percent cut in funding to New York and the District and the $6 million in cut in funds to Baltimore that Homeland Security announced in May. The District’s homeland security grant was slashed from $77 million to about $46 million, and New York’s went from more than $200 million to about $124 million.

The cuts targeted large cities, mostly in the Northeast, and coincided with increased grants to midsized cities, including St. Louis and Jacksonville, Fla.

“Today, we face the unique and ever-changing threat of terrorism that has attacked us before, and most say it is not a question of if it will happen again, but when it will happen,” Mr. Steele told the crowd of firefighters, police officers and emergency-management officials. “It is therefore the responsibility of leadership at these times, more than at any other time, to not just identify and confront threats to our national security, but more importantly, to implement smart policies that prevent these threats from ever materializing.”

“This means using the newest and best technologies for securing our infrastructure, our airports, our ports against terror threats,” he said.

S.A. Miller, Seth McLaughlin and Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire reports.

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