George Allen (R) collected the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, gaining the backing of the pro-business group in his tight U.S. Senate contest against fellow former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D).
The Chamber endorsement — delivered at an event in Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean — was expected, since the group frequently supports Republicans and has already been on the airwaves attacking Kaine, though the Virginia Chamber of Commerce has made clear it is staying neutral in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D),
As he has frequently in recent days, Allen used the opportunity to criticize the spending deal last year that, unless Congress acts, will lead to automatic spending cuts across the federal government in January – including more than $50 billion from the Pentagon.
“If policies aren’t changed, things are going to get much worse for people here in Virginia,” Allen said, calling the impending defense cuts an example of “poor leadership” from Washington.
At the time the spending deal was struck, Allen opposed it, partly because he wanted deeper spending reductions overall and partly because he was concerned about the possibility of the defense cuts. On Tuesday the Allen campaign launched a television ad warning of the “devastating job losses” that would stem from the cuts
Kaine supported the deal at the time, but — as Democrats have repeatedly pointed out lately — so did most of the Virginia congressional delegation, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R), as well as Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R).
And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also backed the deal at the time.
“Accepting the U.S. Chamber’s endorsement — a group he’s said is out to ‘devastate’ Virginia’s economy — proves that George Allen’s recent attacks over potential defense cuts are nothing more than political posturing,” said Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine.
The U.S. Chamber also strongly supported raising the debt ceiling last year, something Allen repeatedly said he was hesitant to do. “We’ll get rid of you,” U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue reportedly said in June 2011 of Republicans who did not back a debt ceiling increase.
Despite those disagreements, the Chamber made clear Wednesday which candidate it preferred in the Senate race.
“The Chamber endorsement is the result of an exhaustive process that takes into consideration a number of critical issues impacting the business community and does not make an endorsement on any single vote or policy position,” said Rob Engstrom, the U.S. Chamber’s national political director. “In the Virginia Senate race, there is a clear and compelling difference between Senator Allen and Chairman Kaine on issues important to the business community. That is why we have proudly endorsed Senator Allen.”