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Allen Emerges as Top McCain Surrogate

Tim Craig

Former governor and U.S. senator George Allen (R) is emerging as a top surrogate for Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign in Virginia, a potentially risky strategy for the GOP as it looks to recover from its losses in 2006.

Earlier today, Allen appeared with Rep. Thelma Drake (R-Va.) at an event in Virginia Beach to discuss McCain's energy plans. Last month, the McCain campaign had Allen's wife, Susan, give the campaign's official response to an event Sen. Barack Obama held for women in Fairfax County.

Some Virginia Democrats are bewildered by the McCain campaign's strategy of putting Allen front and center of its general election campaign in the state. Allen lost his 2006 bid for reelection by about 8,000 votes following a series of well publicized gaffes on the campaign trail. Allen lost to Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) largely because his support collapsed in vote-rich Northern Virginia. McCain will have to win back some of those voters if he wants to carry Virginia this fall.

Allen has been trying to rebuild his image in recent months, and he remains very popular with the GOP faithful. A poll by WJLA TV in September found that 40% of voters viewed Allen favorably, compared to 34 percent who viewed his unfavorably.

But some Virginia Democrats are now trying to link Allen to McCain, a task made all the easier by the McCain campaign's use of him on the campaign trail.

On Monday, Democratic strategist Toby Chaudhuri hosted an "Asian Americans for Obama" event with actor Kal Penn in Arlington. The event was billed as a celebration of the two-year anniversary of Allen's use of the word macaca.

"Outrage among Asian Americans from Sen. Allen's comments helped propel Democrat Sen. Jim Webb's come-from-behind victory," Chaudhuri wrote in an email to reporters.

Josh Earnest, Obama's deputy communications director, told reporters earlier today he was also "surprised" to see that Allen has been so visible in support of McCain.

"It does seem like the voters of Virginia sent Senator Allen a pretty clear message in 2006 that they are ready for change in Washington DC," Earnest said. "It is our expectation that Virginia voters will send the same message to John McCain this year."

Gail Gitcho, a McCain spokeswoman, responded by accusing the Obama campaign of trying to distract voters from the real issues.

"Since Barack Obama's campaign lacks solutions to Virginian's energy needs, it's not surprising that his campaign would stoop to political attacks while John McCain's campaign is holding an energy roundtable with local business owners from various local industries to discuss how John McCain's energy policy will benefit the tidewater region," Gitcho said.

By Tim Craig  |  August 13, 2008; 6:25 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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George Allen remains popular despite what happened in '06. A recent poll done by Public Policy Polling ( shows that many Virginians still hold favorable views of the former Governor and Senator. He is a strong conservative and the type of guy that can get others excited about McCain.

Posted by: Matt | August 13, 2008 7:00 PM | Report abuse

At first glance, this doesn't seem to make any sense. Associating oneself with a recent "loser" isn't necessarily a good strategy in a potentially very close state -- especially one who seemed not to be able to open his mouth without having something racist come out.

However, on second thought, who the hell else is Mr. McCain going to turn to???? Certainly not former Gov. James Gilmore. He's farther from the lead than the second place finisher was to Secretariat in the Belmont.

The smartest thing McCain could do would be to keep Mr. Allen as far away from Northern Va. as possible, and make extensive use of retiring Rep. Tom Davis in that area.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 13, 2008 9:19 PM | Report abuse

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