RICHMOND — Virginia conservatives say an unrelenting focus on taxes will give U.S. Sen. George Allen a win over Democratic challenger James H. Webb Jr. in next month’s election.
During a debate Monday night, Mr. Allen, a Republican, hammered Mr. Webb on taxes and yesterday kept up the attack. The Allen campaign Web site yesterday declared: “Hillary Clinton gave James Webb Jr. 1,000,000 reasons to raise taxes on 3 million hard-working Virginians.”
“He showed he was the conservative choice and that it would be too dangerous to let the Democrats get control of the Senate,” said Steve Rossie of Richmond, who yesterday attended a meeting of the anti-tax Tuesday Morning Group.
Conservatives irritated with national Republicans on fiscal issues say Mr. Allen finally has landed on a winning strategy in the final weeks of the race, one of the hottest in the nation with the major candidates nearly tied in the polls.
The charge that Mr. Webb opposes making President Bush’s tax cuts permanent echoes the theme of an Allen attack ad that features images of Mrs. Clinton and Democratic Sens. John Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, all of whom support Mr. Webb.
During the debate, Mr. Webb called corporate-tax loopholes unfair and noted that Mr. Allen allowed the tuition tax credit to die, costing families $4,000 per year.
“We have huge deficits, we kid ourselves if we don’t say that we need more revenues,” he said.
Mr. Webb released an ad responding to Mr. Allen’s tax accusations, calling them lies and saying that his plan would cut taxes for the middle class and veterans.
“Virginians have a choice: George Allen’s political sewage or Jim Webb’s new direction,” the ad concludes.
The tax theme will continue through Election Day because “when you’ve got a Republican versus a Democrat debating on taxes, we win the issue,” Allen adviser Chris LaCivita said.
Mr. Allen today is expected to receive the endorsement of several anti-tax groups, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the American Family Business Institute.
Mr. Webb, who was endorsed by the Virginia Education Association yesterday, also got a boost when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced a $1 million television ad buy in Virginia.
The DSCC ad features a clip of Mr. Allen calling an Indian-American Webb volunteer “macaca” and says that Mr. Allen’s “scandals, slurs and insults” have exposed his “dark side.”
“He wants the race to be decided on issues … here’s his record,” the announcer says, going on to tell voters that Mr. Allen took campaign contributions from big oil companies and then gave them tax breaks.
It also states he voted against raising the minimum wage.
“George Allen is wrong on the issues, too,” the announcer says.
Both men could claim victories after Monday’s televised debate, the last face-to-face meeting of the campaign.
Political observers said Mr. Webb performed solidly by touting his military credentials that make him a better choice to lead the nation out of Iraq.
Mr. Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former Republican who served as President Reagan’s secretary of the Navy in 1987 to ‘88, told voters that Mr. Allen is “one of the administration’s blindest supporters” and votes with the president 100 percent of the time on foreign affairs.
Mr. Webb said the election is a chance for disaffected Republicans who aren’t comfortable with the majority party’s position on social justice and economic fairness to vote for a Democrat.
“Just remember that the Republican Party has lost its way in the area of national security,” he said. “I would hope that many of you would decide to come home.”
Social conservatives applauded Mr. Allen’s response to a debate question on the congressional page scandal — saying that as a father he finds the situation “deplorable.”
“If … anybody put politics ahead of the protection of these children, then they should not be in a position of leadership and … no taxpayer should be paying for the pensions of anyone so dishonorably discharged from Congress,” Mr. Allen said.
Kevin Rollins of Woodbridge, a libertarian and former Republican, said he will vote for Mr. Webb because the majority party should be taught a lesson on Nov. 7.
“Giving the Republicans another victory won’t reduce the size of government,” he said.