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Will Dem Challengers Keep Allen at Home?

Even though Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) appears to be headed toward a more competitive-than-expected reelection race in November, he continues to visit states that will play a key role in the 2008 election.

Allen will make a stop in Iowa on March 17 and 18th for a pair of fundraisers for the Iowa Republican Party. On St. Patrick's Day, Allen will be in Cedar Falls for an evening event at the Park Place Event Center. The following day Allen will be at the Radisson in Davenport for a breakfast fundraiser to benefit "Victory 2006," according to the invite obtained by The Fix. For $500, an individuals gets two tickets to the coffee reception, a table of 10 for the breakfast and a photo-op with the senator.

The question before Allen is how much of a national schedule will he be able to keep without endangering his chances of winning reelection in the fall?

Dick Wadhams, Allen's chief of staff, said that the vast majority of Allen's out-of-state visits are aimed at raising money for the reelection campaign. "He is not a self-financing multimillionaire like our two Democratic opponents," Wadhams said.

Both Harris Miller, former head of a technology industry association, and James Webb, former secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and noted author of thrillers, are running for the Democratic nomination. Miller has considerable financial resources and has pledged to give a dollar from his own pocket for every two dollars donated to his campaign by individuals. The two men will face off in a June 13 primary.

Mo Elleithee, a consultant to Miller's campaign, said Allen's travels outside of Virginia will be a major issue during the campaign. "People want a full-time senator," he said. "It's pretty clear that [Allen] is not."

Steve Jarding, who is advising Webb, said he expects Virginia voters to be skeptical of Allen's pledge that he wants to continue to serve in the Senate. "When he is telling you that he wants to represent you, it's with a bit of a wink and a nod because he is in Iowa and New Hampshire," said Jarding. "I guess he thinks he can run for the Senate from Iowa."

Wadhams said Allen only accepts one in every 20 speaking invitations that he receives, and he noted that Allen traveled the country during the 2004 cycle as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Republicans picked up four Senate seats, leading Wadhams to conclude that "the fruits of that work on issues that Virginians care about has come to fruition in the Senate."

It remains to be seen how active a national schedule Allen can or will choose to keep as he stumps for a second Senate term. What is clear is that the candidacies of Webb and Miller complicate Allen's unencumbered run for the presidency, which seemed like such a sure thing just six months ago.

(One interesting note on the Miller-Webb primary: The consultant team that helped elected Virginia Gov. Mark Warner in 2001 is splitting between the two Senate hopefuls. A portion of that team, including pollster Geoff Garin and Elleithee, is with Miller. Jarding has sided with Webb, and we hear that Webb has picked GMMB as his media consultant -- the same firm that did Warner's ads in 2001. Jarding said the full consultant team will be announced next week in Richmond.)

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 3, 2006; 1:53 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008 , Senate  
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For those wanting former Gov. Mark Warner to run against Allen; the reason he didn't, I believe, is that he wants to run for President as a Governor not as a Senator. Conventional wisdom, and you can see it on the posts on these boards, is that being a Senator is a liability when running for President. Unless your Sen. McCain who somehow is an exception as the fact that he is a Senator and has never been a governor is not seen as a liability for him. One of the reasons it might be considered a liability is that he would be forced to do tough political votes where he couldn't avoid either upsetting the moderate swing voters or upsetting the base depending on his votes.

Posted by: Jason | March 4, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Warner should have stepped up to take Allen out when he had the chance. Since he didn't, citizens who want Allen out pushed hard for Webb to run and he did accept that challenge. He can do a number on Allen all on his own, whether or not Warner chooses to work for him after the primary (won't happen before then but it will be a necessity for Warner's political standing to back Webb after the primary.) Webb is one tough man with the credentials to back what he says. George Allen will be forced to stay in state and fight to keep his seat but I think James Webb can win it. Dim the lights and pop the popcorn. This is gonna be good!

Posted by: VaDem | March 4, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Warner's doing a fundraiser for Miller in Alexandria next week. Looks like Warner's already made his choice.

Posted by: Va8thProgressive | March 3, 2006 7:22 PM | Report abuse


We're in agreement that Warner took the cautious route on 2006 and that it might end up hurting him in the end.

I'd take the guy who could beat Allen over the guy who could mortally wound him. If he loses his re-election in 2006, his White House prospects are over, plain and simple. Gotta beat him now before we have to hear any of his inane football metaphors in the White House.

Posted by: Arlington Dem | March 3, 2006 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I think the Allen-is-Invincible crowd is asleep at the wheel. If by "thrillers" Mr. Clizza means influencial Vietnam novels, then yes, Mr. Webb wrote one of those.

And frankly, Mr. Webb knows a good amount about Vietnam seeing as how he picked up two purple hearts, a silver star, two bronze stars, and the Navy Cross while there.

Webb will win the Senate seat.

Posted by: Will | March 3, 2006 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Webb is going to be on The Colbert Report this week. Not sure which night. We'll get a chance to check out his sense of humor. Could be fun.

For non-fans, The Colbert Report is a show on Comedy Central. 11:30 PM Monday thru Thursday (but also shown at other times; check you listings).

Posted by: THS | March 3, 2006 5:28 PM | Report abuse

To respond to "Arlington Dem":

All the polls I've seen in hypothetical Allen-Warner Senate contest had Warner up by double digits; I wish Warner would have ran because he would have knocked Allen out and his momentum for 08 would have been enough to seriously challenge Hillary's frontrunner status (Getting Kaine elected plus knocking out a GOP 2008 frontrunner = big momentum); however, it would have been a tough and bloody race.

Back to the Webb/Miller race, it seems clear to me that Webb has the best chance of winning the general, while Miller has the best chance of bloodying Allen to the point where '08 is unthinkable...I don't know what's better: 50/50 that Webb may win or a better percentage that Miller mortally wounds Allen electorally and he has no chance at the GOP nomination in '08

Posted by: Eugene | March 3, 2006 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Mark Warner will not endorse either candidate before the primary but he did let it be known that he was encouraging Miller to run before Webb entered the race. Chuck Robb won't do anything because he's essentially irrelevant in today's political landscape. Doug Wilder, however, may be the pain in the rear he always has been. There is a strong outpouring of support for Webb from Democratic-leaning Independents who have been operating in the shadows for years. I think Allen is going to be very surprised this year.

Posted by: Country Philosopher | March 3, 2006 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Speaking as a combat veteran of the Vietnam War (500-plus missions as a helo gunship pilot) and one associated with homeland security today, Jim Webb commands wide respect, admiration, and support in the veteran community--especially among those of us who feel like the Republican Party's right wing has abandoned moderate conservatives over the past eight years. Go Jim!

Posted by: Runner | March 3, 2006 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, and let's not forget about how he hung a noose from a tree in his old law office, in an apparent nod to LYNCHING, of all things. I cannot bear to think of him as my Senator for another term...

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | March 3, 2006 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Cville Guy is right on the money. The only reason George Allen is even in the Senate in the first place is because Chuck Robb was a bad campaigner. Allen is a slimy, opportunistic climber who has so much White House desire it's laughable. I can't wait to vote for whoever wins the primary; it will be my distinct pleasure.

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | March 3, 2006 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Just tie Allen to Bush and watch him sink like a rock.

Posted by: Alexandria | March 3, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I know all the lefties love MWarner, but lets tell the truth. Govt is not a for-profit entity, so its particularly insidious to convince your populace you are facing a budgetary crisis that can only be remedied by a tax increase. Then one year later govt is sitting on a billion dollar surplus. One would think that tax burden could be lightened now that we sit on such a surplus, but no, now we get MW’s lapdog and of course the public education rat hole needs to be filled and presumably we need cash for the traumatized illegals, (b/c life in this country can be so hard on them). The rich will always be able to hide their wealth, so as usual it’s the working man (woman), getting screwed. And to think dems believe themselves to be guardians of the working class. Normally I love irony, but this is nauseating.

Posted by: Capitalist Bob | March 3, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I literally cannot wait to vote against Allen. He is the consummate gladhanding backbencher - no tangible legislative benefits for Virginians, just photo ops, junkets, and toadying up to Karl Rove & Co. My commonwealth deserves a full-time Senator.

Posted by: Cville Guy | March 3, 2006 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Ohio,
I agree it is an uphill battle for the Dems but not insurmountable by any means.

Posted by: Andy R | March 3, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

George Allen - 49%
James Webb - 37% (poll taken february 14th , ONE WEEK after Webb entered the race)

Miller - 35%
Allen - 48% (Allen had led Miller 57% to 27% one month earlier)

Anyone who thinks this race is a lock for Allen is delusional. He is NOT popular, he will be hurt b/c he is running for president and virginians want a full-term senator. Also, the current governor and former governor Warner will endorse the primary winner, giving him a boost. Factor in the national anti-republican wind that will sweep the nation in November, and this race is anything but a sure thing for Allen.

Posted by: Ohio guy | March 3, 2006 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else think Warner himself should have run against Allen in 2006? Yes, there's the chance that he could have lost to a popular NFL scion, former governor and incumbent senator, but after Kaine won he probably had a better than 50-50 shot at winning.

No one really knows Warner outside the Beltway and VA. It's not like he's a sitting governor, either.

Had he run and won, he would have gone from flavor of the month to god-like status, and national recognition to boot.

Sure, Warner would then have had to wait till 2012 to run (unless he pulled a JFK and ran a mere two years into his first senate term), but is anyone really going to beat McCain in 2008?

Posted by: Arlington Dem | March 3, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

It isn't an open and shut case for Allen. First off in the most recent Survey USA poll Allen's approval rating was 51%. When you compare that to John Warner (the other senator from VA) who is at 65% it seems to me at least that Allen has work to do to make sure he keeps his seat. Also he now will be challenged to commit to serving out his whole term. That being said it is Allen's seat to lose but lots of trips to NH and Iowa aren't gonna make the folks in Virginia feel all warm and cuddely inside.
Has anyone seen a poll comparing Webb (or miller) against Allen head to head?

Posted by: Andy R | March 3, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Warner will endorse either of them as neither really has a legitimate shot right now of winning.

Posted by: TLH/FL DEM | March 3, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I think in the Miller-Webb face-off we will see the wisdom in letting local, intra-party rivals duke it out in a primary, rather than having Washington champion one and squash the other, a la Brown-Hackett in Ohio. Both Miller and Webb are relative newcomers, and the winner will be stronger in the general election for having made his mistakes and cut his teeth in the primary.

Posted by: DLG | March 3, 2006 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Don't be so sure. If Warner endorses Webb, there will be a competition. I'm not saying it would be a guaranteed victory for Webb . . . but Allen would definitely have to work to hold his ground in that scenario!

Posted by: The Caped Composer | March 3, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Give it up guys - Allen will be re-elected with breathing room to spare...

Posted by: Registered Voter | March 3, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

That's a good point TCC.
I wonder though if Warner will take the risk of openly campaigning for one or just wait until after the primary and then jump in for whoever wins out.

Posted by: Andy R | March 3, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

The question remains . . . will Warner endorse one of the Democratic candidates (hopefully Webb) before the primary takes place? Having members of the Warner strategic team is one thing, but an actual endorsement from Warner could have long-term implications . . . and could also position Warner well for 2008. After all, if both a governor AND a senator were to be elected on his coattails . . .

Posted by: The Caped Composer | March 3, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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