Obama-Romney battle puts Senate race in Virginia in 'eye of the storm'
With Senate primary victories on Tuesday, George Allen (R) and Tim Kaine (D) will battle for a seat that could swing control of the Senate – in a state that could swing control of the White House.
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But in November, with both President Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney already lavishing money and attention on Virginia, turnout will likely soar. That means Allen and Kaine will battle for a seat that could swing control of the Senate in the shadow of their presidential partners.Skip to next paragraph
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“I don’t think either Tim Kaine or George Allen has complete control,” says Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. “Their job is really to stay up in the wake of that really big ship, which is the presidential campaign, and whichever one masters water skiing on that large wake is likely to win.”
Both candidates are embracing their presidential ticket mates.
“I’m hopeful that Mitt and Ann Romney will be in Virginia right off, and if it all works out, I obviously look forward to campaigning with him,” Allen said outside of a northern Virginia elementary school.
Kaine, who was mentioned as a possible vice presidential selection for Mr. Obama in 2004 and who served as the Democratic National Committee’s chairman at the beginning of the Obama administration, has warmly embraced the president.
Both political campaigns are already blasting key Virginia markets with ads, according to an analysis by NBC’s First Read.
Over the past month, three Virginia markets – the Roanoke, Richmond, and Newport News areas – have been among the top 10 advertising markets for the two presidential campaigns nationwide.
Polls show Obama holding a lead over Mr. Romney in Virginia, but at the edge of the polling margin of error. In the Senate race, polls have shown some fluctuation, but both campaigns characterize the race as a dead heat.
But in a Senate race where the candidates are tightly linked to their presidential nominees, will both sides be able to turn out their base, given voters' questions about the tops of the tickets?
Mr. Marshall, the state delegate who nearly won the GOP’s Senate nod in 2006 by packing a nominating convention with supporters, says Mr. Romney and Allen face a challenge of inspiring their party's activists.
“If it's Romney and Allen, there’s going to be little enthusiasm from the activists,” said Marshall, who has waged cultural and social-values battles in the Virginia legislature, in his hometown of Manassas on Tuesday.