The will debate at the tony Homestead resort near the state line with West Virginia.
For weeks, the two candidates have been preparing for the face-off, which is sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association. David Hallock, a top aide for Sen. Mark R. Warner (D), has played Allen in mock debates, while Richmond lobbyist Chris Nolen has been standing in as Kaine.
The race — considered one of a handful of contests that would determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate — pits two former governors against each other. Allen defeated three lesser-known candidates to win his party’s primary last month, while Kaine ran unopposed.
Here’s what to watch for in Saturday’s debate:
1. Differences over health-care ruling
The Supreme Court’s decision may be three weeks old, but it’s certain to remain relevant through November.
Allen has said repeatedly that he wants to be “the deciding vote [in the Senate] to repeal Obamacare,” and he may face more questions now about how he would replace the legislation if it is repealed. Kaine supported the law when it passed and praised the court for its decision.
Now, both candidates could be asked whether Virginia should accept federal funds available under the law to expand eligibility for its Medicaid program.
2. The Obama-Romney effect
Given the importance of Virginia to the presidential race, Allen and Kaine could be asked to weigh in on the issues dominating that contest.
Allen could be queried about GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s tenure with Bain Capital, and about whether Romney should release additional tax returns.
Kaine could face questions about the Obama campaign’s controversial assertion that Romney might have committed a felony by incorrectly filling out some financial forms regarding Bain. And the Democrat could be asked about President Obama’s remarks on whether entrepreneurs build small businesses on their own or with help from the government.
3. ‘Macaca’ alert
Six years after Allen lobbed what some considered a racial slur at an Indian American campaign staffer for his then-Senate campaign opponent, the issue keeps coming back.
Allen has apologized repeatedly for the remark, saying he has learned from the experience. In their first debate, Kaine said he gave Allen credit for apologizing, but he also said the apology had fallen short because it was part of a pattern for Allen and “part of the divisive politics that we’ve got to put behind us in this country.’’
Allen may be asked about the issue again or Kaine may be asked if it matters anymore.
4. Jens Soering’s case
Kaine has been questioned repeatedly about his handling of the case of convicted murderer and former University of Virginia honors student Jens Soering.