Allen took hit in Virginia counties he carried handily in 2000 race
RICHMOND — Sen. George Allen was able to hold Virginia’s conservative strongholds on Nov. 7, but his margins of victory were too slim to save his seat and retain the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.
An amendment defining traditional marriage captured 155,000 more votes than Mr. Allen’s re-election bid, indicating that many voters approved of the measure but preferredMr.Webb,aformerNavysecretary under President Reagan.
Exit polls showed that Democrats,conservativesandindependents whowerefrustratedbytheIraqwar abandoned Mr. Allen and favored Mr.Webb,aVietnamveteranwhose son is serving in Iraq.
Mr.Allenhadtroublesecuringhis conservative base in the final weeks of the campaign, evidenced by the difference in results between his electiontotheSenatein2000andlast week’s tallies.
HewonRepublican-leaningHenrico County by 1,020 votes. In 2000, he won Henrico by more than 9,500 votes in his victory over Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb.
Virginia’s nail-biter stunned the nation as its resolution determined control of the Senate.
The results show that the state is changing,withagrowingpopulation in Northern Virginia, and that Mr. Allenisadifferentcandidatethanthe onewhounseatedMr.Robbsixyears ago.
Mr.Allenwasforcedtocampaign as part of the establishment instead of as an outsider with a platform for reform,whichwaskeytohissuccess in2000andinhisgubernatorialrace in 1993.
Until recently, he was a staunch defender of President Bush’s Iraq war policy, and many voters preferred Mr. Webb, an early opponent of the unpopular conflict.
“The state has changed on him, bigtime,”WebbspokeswomanKristian Denny Todd said.
In addition, several missteps promptedhispeerstorateMr.Allen’s astheworst-runcampaigninthenation.ManyVirginiansfaultedhimfor numerous gaffes, including his “macaca” moment.
The results also suggest that VirginiaisbecomingmoreDemocratic, especially in the growing outer suburbs of Northern Virginia.
“I don’t think the traditional punditry of dividing the state into different regions is always correct,” said former Gov. Mark Warner, who in 2001 upset an eight-year Republican streak in gubernatorial races.
Analysis of unofficial results shows Mr. Allen lost five counties thathehadwonin2000—Alleghany, Montgomery, Nelson, Prince William and Rappahannock.
In 2001, Mr. Warner won three of those, and in last year’s governor’s race, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine won all five of those counties.
The most dramatic shift was seen in Prince William, which Mr. Allen won by 7,760 votes in 2000. He lost it to Mr. Webb by more than 2,000 votes, according to the unofficial results.
The Allen campaign was bogged down with questions of character and negative ads that turned off voters on both sides.
Mr. Allen and national Republicans ran ads in October aimed at their conservative base, signaling that they had not secured this key voting bloc. The ads said that Mr. Webb would give illegal aliens amnesty and would raise taxes.
Exit polls showed that Mr. Allen’s strategyofhittingMr.Webbontaxes workedonvotersworriedabouttheir April 15 bills, but it wasn’t enough to deliver him a victory.
Others said they felt Mr. Allen pandered to the wrong audience to shore up centrist support for a 2008 presidential run.
BragBowling,acommanderwith the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said Mr. Allen slighted the heritage group when he dismissed the Confederate flag as a racist symbol in hopes of capturing black votes and position himself for a White House bid.
“DoesanyonethinkGeorgeAllen could have used our votes yesterday?” Mr. Bowling asked his supporters in an e-mail. “It portrayed Allen as a panderer willing to jettison his political base to appeal to a national audience.”
An Associated Press exit poll showed black voters overwhelmingly favored Mr. Webb.
Some conservatives said Mr. Allen’sattacksofMr.Webb’s1979positiononwomenincombatplayedto feministsandmadeMr.Webbappeal to men. Three-quarters of voters in the AP exit poll said they think Mr. Webb respects women.
SethMcLaughlincontributedto this report.