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Supporters of Virginia Senate Candidates Speak Out

Once considered a safe Republican Senate seat, the battle between GOP incumbent George Allen and Democrat Jim Webb is gaining intensity in the final days before elections. Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell debate the issues.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, the last of the big three Senate races we've looked at this week, each key to deciding control of the United States Congress. Tonight, Virginia, and to Margaret Warner.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Locked in one of the tightest races in the country, Democrat Jim Webb got a boost today in his bid to unseat Virginia Republican Senator George Allen.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: How you doing, Virginia?

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The Democratic Party's rising star, Illinois Senator Barack Obama rallied Webb's supporters in Richmond this afternoon.

  • SEN. BARACK OBAMA:

    You in Virginia have somebody right here who can be elected to the United States Senate if in the next few days everybody here makes the effort.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Webb, a former Vietnam veteran and Republican-appointed Navy secretary, trailed Allen by hefty double-digit margins for months. But today, a Reuters-Zogby poll has Webb ahead of Allen by 1 percentage point, a statistical dead heat.

    Allen is a well-known figure across the commonwealth.

    Virginians elected him governor in 1994, and senator in 2000. He began this campaign as an easy favorite for re-election, but a series of gaffes opened the door for Webb's surge.

    In August, there was the now-famous "macaca" incident, in which Allen mocked a dark-skinned Webb campaign volunteer during a rally in rural southwest Virginia.

    SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), Virginia: And welcome — let's give a welcome to Macaca here.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Then came accusations from former acquaintances that he had repeatedly used racial epithets against blacks. Allen addressed both controversies at a debate in Richmond last month.

  • SEN. GEORGE ALLEN:

    I made a mistake, careless words. I've apologized for it, and it's been discussed quite much. And then you have these baseless allegations who do not depict who I am, how I was raised, or what I believe in.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Webb, too, has had to defend himself. He's been blasted by Allen for an article he wrote 27 years ago criticizing the admission of women to the U.S. Naval Academy and arguing they're not suited for combat. Allen's campaign even organized a press conference in September with five female Naval Academy graduates.

  • MARY KATHLEEN MURRAY, Naval Academy Graduate:

    There is no question that James Webb's attitudes and philosophy were major factors behind the unnecessary abuse and hazing received by me and my fellow women midshipmen.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    More recently, Allen attacked Webb, a successful novelist, for sexually explicit passages in several of his books, arguing they demeaned women.

    These personal attacks — and issues, from Iraq to health care to taxes — have been fought out over the airwaves, too, with millions spent on negative ads over the last several weeks.

  • AD ANNOUNCER:

    George Allen tried to steer government contracts to a company that paid him stock options.

  • AD ANNOUNCER:

    Jim Webb sure has some interesting plans, like raising taxes $2,000 on the average Virginia family.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    This afternoon in Richmond, Webb returned to the issue on which he launched his campaign: his disagreement with President Bush and Senator Allen on the Iraq war.

    JAMES WEBB (D), Virginia Senate Candidate: We need to get a diplomatic solution on the table. We need to get our combat troops out. And we can do that and still win the war on international terrorism.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Allen is going to have popular Virginia Senator John Warner stump with him this weekend.

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