Allen responds to Dems on campaign-focus issue
Story by Chris Graham
Political commentator Chris Matthews says George Allen is the frontrunner for the 2008 Republican Party presidential nomination – and he’s not alone there.
But that fact helps Allen not one bit in his drive for re-election to the United States Senate representing Virginia. Indeed, it could turn out to be a major hindrance – if Allen’s Democratic Party opponents can convince voters that he is more focused on 2008 than he is on the here and now.
“Allen’s running two contradictory campaigns at once. He’s dashing around the country, showing up constantly in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and elsewhere, taking very conservative stands for the GOP activists that don’t always sit well with the voters in a moderating Virginia,” University of Virginia political-science professor Larry Sabato noted in his Crystal Ball report this week.
If Allen, Sabato said, is “as serious about running for the White House as he seems to be – and that’s been his obvious ambition for years – then why didn’t he forgo re-election and step down from the Senate at the end of this term?”
Allen shared his thoughts on the issue with The Augusta Free Press after a Wednesday event in Harrisonburg in which he announced his candidacy for re-election to the United States Senate.
“I don’t know what the future will hold. All I do know is what I can focus on now – and that is doing the job and also getting re-elected this year,” Allen said.
“We’ll see what happens in the future. But one thing that I do know – I’m enthused, I’m excited, and it’s good to see this turnout,” Allen said in Harrisonburg. “I love doing my job for Virginians. We do need more reinforcements. I think we need more people who think the way I do – it would make it a little bit more fun in that regard if we get more of those who think we need reforms.
“The one thing that I know for sure is I enjoy and am very appreciative of the people of Virginia allowing me to work for them in Washington. And I would like to continue doing so,” Allen said.
The two men vying for the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Allen in the fall – former Reagan administration Navy secretary James Webb and Northern Virginia businessman Harris Miller – have both raised issue with Allen’s dual-track campaigns.
“George Allen has spent a good part of his time in the Senate focused on something else or just not being completely happy in his job. There’s just not a lot that he can point to in his time in the Senate in terms of direct action that has benefited Virginians,” said Kristian Denny Todd, a spokesperson for Webb, who was within seven percentage points of Allen in a March Wall Street Journal poll.
“Virginians deserve better than that. They deserve a senator who is ready to go to work for them, who is more than happy to represent Virginia. Virginia deserves somebody who doesn’t look at this job in a halfhearted way and as a placeholder to get to the next step,” Todd told the AFP.
“I think it’s pretty clear that Sen. Allen would prefer to be focusing on things other than representing Virginia in the Senate,” said Taylor West, a Miller spokesperson.
“He’s made that clear in his earlier statements – where he said he found the Senate too slow – and he’s made it clear really from the time that he’s been in the Senate. His interest has clearly been much more political and about advancing his political future than they have been about doing what’s best for the people of Virginia,” West told the AFP.
Allen offered a strong message to his critics on that point on Wednesday.
“They ought to worry about their own schedules and their own campaigns. I’m going to worry about mine,” Allen said of Webb and Miller.
“We’re going to run a very positive campaign on ideas and issues and uniting and inspiring and motivating Virginians toward these causes and these missions. And so, they’re sort of whining about things. Let them whine,” Allen said.