George Allen will make it his job as U.S. senator to make sure Virginians have the opportunity to find work. Tim Kaine will pledge to partner with — and not obstruct — the president to tackle the country’s myriad issues.
Those were two of the closing arguments for the two U.S. Senate candidates as they end their marathon campaign with a mixture of intimate events and massive rallies — the inevitable byproduct of vying for a Senate seat representing a state crucial to both presidential candidates’ Electoral College math.
“Our nation needs more partners who will work together with the president — who will work together with other members of Congress to get results for the American people,” Mr. Kaine told an estimated 24,000 people packed into the Jiffy Lube Live amphitheater Saturday night in Bristow for a rally that also featured President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and musician Dave Matthews. “I would be proud to join President Obama as Virginia’s next senator I wouldn’t go into the Senate pledging to get in the president’s way; I wouldn’t go into the Senate pledging to be an obstructionist of the president. I would go in pledging to be a partner with the president for the good of the country.”
But, Mr. Allen argued earlier in the day that the president’s policies haven’t worked well enough for the country. The regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency on carbon emissions are crippling the coal industry, he said, also decrying the White House’s unwillingness to allow Virginia to explore for oil and natural gas off of its southeastern shores.
“With Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in the White House, we’ll have leaders who will say yes to Virginia jobs, yes to Virginia energy, and yes to [American] energy independence,” Mr. Allen said at a rally with Mr. Ryan at Martinair in Richmond on Saturday. “My No. 1 job will be to make sure that Virginians have job opportunities.”
Indeed, both Mr. Allen and Mr. Kaine heartily embraced their ticketmates on Saturday. The presidential and U.S. Senate races are virtually even in the state, though Mr. Kaine is polling slightly ahead of the president.
Mr. Ryan greeted Mr. Allen with a handshake and hug as he took the stage.
“This is what leadership looks like right here,” Mr. Ryan said, turning slightly and gesturing to Mr. Allen, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Gov. Bob McDonnell.
“We need George,” Mr. Ryan said. “We need him badly.”
Mr. Kaine, meanwhile, was the first to greet Mr. Obama after his speech in Bristow, delivering a double-barreled fist pump to the president.
Mr. Allen also appeared at a rally with Mitt Romney in Doswell on Thursday and at another in Newport News on Sunday. Mr. Kaine is scheduled to appear with Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his wife Jill Biden, Sen. Mark Warner and U.S. Sen. Jim Webb in Sterling on Monday. Mr. Kaine’s wife, Anne, appeared with first lady Michelle Obama in southeastern Virginia on Friday and Mr. Allen’s wife, Susan, has appeared at Romney and Ryan events in recent weeks.
Virginia is one of just seven or eight states whose electoral votes are still up for grabs. Mr. Obama became the first Democrat since 1964 to carry the state four years ago, and keeping it blue would make Mr. Romney’s road to the White House all the more rocky.
But aside from the high-profile boosts that came along with the heightened importance of the state in the presidential contest, Mr. Allen and Mr. Kaine also crisscrossed the state for more retail politicking.
Mr. Kaine devoted time over the weekend to thanking volunteers in various Obama for America offices, and held an “Asian American and Pacific Islander rally” Sunday in Falls Church. He made a two-day swing across Virginia last week with Mr. Warner that stretched from Alexandria to Bristol, and his wife spent the weekend at events in Southwest Virginia.
Mr. Allen, meanwhile, swung through the Shenandoah Valley on Friday to speak at a defense company and made trips to Staunton and Charlottesville to help drive get-out-the-vote efforts. Before meeting up with Mr. Ryan, he and Mr. Cantor attended a tailgate party at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland. Mrs. Allen on Saturday made the case for her husband, in Mecklenburg, Prince Edward and Roanoke counties.
Indeed, both candidates certainly realize that money — more than $80 million has been spent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — may not be as valuable as a handshake or an in-person conversation in driving voters to the polls Tuesday.
“I think a month ago the volume of ads reached a saturation point,” said Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University.