Polls buoy Allen prospects for Se­nate re­match in Vir­ginia

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JOSEPH WE­BER

Vir­ginia Repub­li­cans are ea­gerly eye­ing a po­ten­tial re­match be­tween fresh­man Demo­cratic Sen. Jim Webb and for­mer GOP Sen. Ge­orge Allen, who has posted strong num­bers in early polls and has the back­ing of the party es­tab­lish­ment in what could be one of the bell­wether races of the 2012 cy­cle.

Mr. Webb’s up­set vic­tory in 2006 was hailed as a key blow by Democrats to turn the once strongly Repub­li­can-lean­ing state into a po­lit­i­cal bat­tle­ground. Barack Obama’s vic­tory in the state in the 2008 pres­i­den­tial race ap­peared to so­lid­ify the Old Do­min­ion’s sta­tus as a swing state.

But Repub­li­cans have bounced back, re­cap­tur­ing the gover­nor’s man­sion in 2009 and knock­ing off three Demo­cratic mem­bers of Congress in the Novem­ber midterm elec­tions. Mr. Allen, many Repub­li­cans be­lieve, is poised to build on those gains.

Mr. Allen, a for­mer gover­nor be­fore be­ing elected to the Se­nate in 2000, “is Webb’s biggest night­mare,” said GOP strate­gist Tom Ed­monds. “Ge­orge Allen is in synch with the Vir­ginia elec­torate. He also was a con­ser­va­tive long be­fore the ‘tea party’ move­ment and one who doesn’t frighten Repub­li­cans or Democrats. Allen will be able to grab the at­ten­tion of con­ser­va­tives all over the coun­try.”

A re­match isn’t a cer­tainty: Mr. Webb has not com­mit­ted to run­ning for a sec­ond term, and Mr. Allen has not de­clared him- self a can­di­date. But the Repub­li­can has stepped up his attacks on his suc­ces­sor, crit­i­ciz­ing his re­cent votes sup­port­ing union or­ga­niz­ing rights for some public­sec­tor safety work­ers and against ban­ning con­gres­sional spend­ing ear­marks.

Mr. Allen point­edly noted that Mr. Webb on those votes broke with his fel­low Demo­cratic sen­a­tor from Vir­ginia, Mark Warner.

“For the sec­ond time in barely a week, Sen­a­tor Webb has can­celed out Sen­a­tor Warner’s vote on an is­sue of great im­por­tance to Vir­gini­ans and our com­mon­wealth’s econ­omy,” Mr. Allen said in a state­ment.

A poll re­leased Dec. 13 by the non­par ti­san Cal­rus Re­search Group found Mr. Webb, a first-term sen­a­tor, es­sen­tially tied with his ri­val with a 41 per­cent to 40 per­cent lead over Mr. Allen. Mr. Allen en­tered the 2006 Se­nate race a heavy fa­vorite for re-elec­tion, but his cam­paign was plagued by gaffes and the un­pop­u­lar­ity of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, and he wound up los­ing to Mr. Webb by less than 1 per­cent­age point.

The Cal­rus poll fol­lows one in Novem­ber by the Demo­crat­i­clean­ing Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling that showed Mr. Webb lead­ing Mr. Allen 49 per­cent to 45 per­cent at the start the 2012 cy­cle. The fact that the Demo­cratic in­cum­bent could not crack the 50 per­cent mark sent red flags fly­ing.

“The fact that he is not polling above 44 per­cent in the [Cal­rus poll] is a dan­ger sign,” said Ron Faucheux, pres­i­dent of the non­par ti­san, Washington, D.C.- based firm Faucheux & Co. “De­spite his de­feat by Mr. Webb four years ago, Ge­orge Allen’s po­ten­tial come­back strength is im­pres­sive.”

The lib­eral-lean­ing Swing State Project po­lit­i­cal web­site said that the polls put Mr. Webb in a “fairly dan­ger­ous po­si­tion — well be­low the 50 per­cent mark that sup­pos­edly rep­re­sents safety.”

Ben Tulchin, of the San Fran­cisco-based Tulchin Re­search, ac­knowl­edged that Mr. Webb faces a tough 2012 cam­paign if he seeks re-elec­tion. How­ever, he added that a close 2012 con­test should be ex­pected, con­sid­er­ing the 2006 squeaker and that early polls num­bers likely still re­flect some on the anti-in­cum­bent sen­ti­ment that re­sulted in over­whelm­ing GOP midterm vic­to­ries last month.

“He barely won last time, so how could he ex­pect to have an easy race next time?” Mr. Tulchin asked. “And this is not a good time for an in­cum­bent Demo­crat to be on the bal­lot.”



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