- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Virginia’s two most popular politicians jumped full-bore into the state’s Senate campaign yesterday, with former Gov. Mark Warner promising to do all he can to get Democrat James H. Webb Jr. elected and U.S. Sen. John W. Warner making a joint televised appearance with Republican Sen. George Allen.

The two Warners are not related.

Mark Warner, who surprised political observers Friday by forgoing an anticipated run for the presidency, campaigned yesterday with Mr. Webb at a Fairfax County retirement community and said many more joint appearances are forthcoming.

“I’ll have a little more time now to campaign with him,”Mr. Warner said, referring to his aborted presidential bid. “I’m going to put all my energy behind this effort.”

In particular, the former governor said he would campaign with fellow Democrat Mr. Webb in Southside and Southwest Virginia — two parts of the state where Mr. Warner has worked for years to build up credibility with conservative voters there.

Mr. Warner left office in January with approval ratings above 70 percent. Perhaps the only Virginia politician who rivals Mr. Warner’s popularity is Sen. Warner, a Republican who won re-election in 2002 with 83 percent of the vote.

Mr. Allen for the second time in his campaign purchased a two-minute block at 7:58 p.m. yesterday in all of Virginia’s broadcast markets — this time for a taped joint appearance with Sen. Warner.

Still, Mr. Webb yesterday called Sen. Warner a friend and said he thinks his positions hold more in common with Sen. Warner than Mr. Allen’s.

Mr. Webb noted that Sen. Warner recently offered a sober assessment of the situation in Iraq and said the Bush administration might need to consider a “change of course” if the Iraqi government cannot stabilize the situation in the next few months. Mr. Webb has consistently criticized Mr. Bush’s move to invade Iraq and his handling of the war and subsequent occupation.

Mr. Webb also cited Sen. Warner’s support for embryonic stem-cell research, which Mr. Allen has opposed.

“It seems like Senator Warner’s positions are actually closer to Jim Webb than to George Allen,” Mr. Warner told reporters.

Mr. Allen’s campaign did not immediately return calls yesterday afternoon seeking comment.

Mr. Webb and Mr. Warner fielded questions yesterday at a town-hall forum in Greenspring Village, a well-heeled retirement community of nearly 2,000 that is its own voting precinct and routinely has among the highest voter turnouts in the state. Last year, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine carried the precinct by about 20 points, similar to his margin of victory in the rest of Fairfax County.

Most of the questions from the audience of nearly 300 were about Iraq.

When one resident asked if Mr. Webb would impeach Mr. Bush, Mr. Webb responded that he would do “everything in my power to bring accountability to what has happened on a variety of fronts in this administration.” When the resident pointed out that Mr. Webb did not answer the question, Mr. Webb simply smiled in response.

Most but not all in attendance were supportive of Mr. Webb.

Suri Khanna, 70, a native of India, said before the event that he supports Mr. Allen in part because of his support of the Indian-American community on issues like visas for high-tech workers. He described as overblown the “macaca” incident, in which Mr. Allen used what is sometimes regarded as an ethnic slur against a Webb campaign staffer of Indian descent.

After yesterday’s forum, Mr. Khanna said he heard nothing from Mr. Webb to change his mind.

“On Iraq, Webb wants to do exactly what Bush is doing,” Mr. Khanna said, referring to Mr. Webb’s reluctance to immediately pull troops out of Iraq.

Recent polls show the contest between Mr. Allen ahead by between two and 4.7 percentage points.

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