- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

Round three in the war against George Allen has begun. This one features three college football teammates who told the Internet magazine Salon that the Virginia Republican used the n-word in the early 1970s and two who disliked his Confederate flag — but it also features seven teammates and contemporaries who cannot recall any racist sentiments and seven who speak highly of him. The senator calls the charges “ludicrously false.” The only critic who revealed his name happens to be an on-again, off-again Democrat who gave $1,000 to a Democratic senatorial challenger four years ago. How convenient.

This is an anti-Allen political strategy and an ingenious one at that. It allows challenger James Webb to seem to be taking the high road as he discusses foreign policy and the outsourcing of jobs. Meanwhile, campaign muckrakers and media sympathizers can dish all the baseless nastiness that the Webb campaign needs to close the gap. This goes on in many campaigns; Mr. Webb’s supporters have simply been highly effective at it.

This race could still end in a comfortable victory for Mr. Allen. Mr. Webb is running as a war-hero candidate with an impressive military biography behind him, but that’s nowhere near enough to win. George McGovern was also a war hero and he got trounced. At the end of the day, voters want to know what a candidate will actually do for them. Mr. Webb is a cut-and-run, pro-tax-increase, pro-choice, pro-gay “marriage,” anti-wiretapping, late-coming ally of DailyKos and MoveOn.org running in a red state. He is an easy mark in a policy-driven election. That is why it is so beneficial to him that this race not be about policy. If Mr. Allen can get this race back to policy, he wins.

• Find more “Craney Islands.” Mr. Allen embarrassed Mr. Webb in their first public debate at Hot Springs by asking the estranged Republican about a major port project on this southeastern Virginia island. Mr. Webb — for whom jobs and job-outsourcing are supposedly key campaign issues — didn’t even know where the island is. Mr. Allen needs to highlight Mr. Webb’s unfamiliarity with the issues that actually matter to Virginians. The Craney Island project is expected to create as many as 54,000 jobs and pump as much as $1.7 billion into the economy. Luckily for Mr. Webb, it was July 22 with a fraction of the recent “macaca” attention. The Allen campaign must find and highlight the other real issues Mr. Webb will flub. Mr. Webb has given only the scantiest outline of his ideas on education, tax policy and immigration. And his faux-economic-populism is a gold mine of half-truths for Republicans.

• Call out Mr. Webb’s sweeping anti-Bushism. Mr. Webb thinks President Bush has overreached his authority repeatedly. Really? If so, shouldn’t he support Mr. Bush’s impeachment? Republicans must ask him this question.

• Get Mr. Webb to explain his Iraq “withdrawal” — that’s his word — and why he could possibly think Iran and Syria will help. Mr. Webb’s Iraq policy is a recipe for disaster. Get him to talk about it at length and voters will see the truth.

• Highlight Mr. Webb’s newfound allies. A range of Democratic luminaries such as John Kerry, Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid have intervened at various moments for Mr. Webb’s benefit. Markos Moulitsas, the uber-liberal blogger and founder of DailyKos, is a fan. Virginians should know this. To most any Republican voter in Virginia, these — not silly riffs on Mr. Webb’s career as a fiction writer — are the true red flags.

These rejoinders will help Mr. Allen steer this race back to the real issues. The liberal media obviously won’t help; they carp endlessly about the perniciousness of negative campaigning but spend weeks on “macaca.” Time to get moving.



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