Kaine blamed Allen for engaging in “smash-mouth politics,’’ such as when Allen said Republicans should knock Democrats’ “soft teeth down their whiny throats.” He then pointed to a half-dozen Republicans he had worked with, including former president George W. Bush and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.
“I don’t think Republicans are my opponents,’’ Kaine said. “We have to compete against China and India, not against each other. That’s yesterday’s politics.’’
Allen also boasted of partnering with Democrats on welfare reform and parole abolition in Richmond as well as working with Sens. John Kerry and Hillary Rodham Clinton while serving in the Senate, but not before asking Kaine if he regretted serving as President Obama’s “hand-picked” chairman of the Democratic National Committee while the state was undergoing the worst recession since the Great Depression.
“On every single significant issue, Tim Kaine has sided with the agenda of President Obama rather than the people of Virginia,’’ Allen said.
Less than four months before voters head to the polls, the race to fill the seat of retiring Sen. James Webb (D) has emerged as one of the most competitive races in November, and one that will help determine the balance of power in the Senate. Allen and Kaine have remained deadlocked in polls for a year.
The former governors debated in front of several hundred lawyers at the posh Homestead resort, nestled in the mountains near the West Virginia border. The 75-minute debate, moderated by CNN’S Candy Crowley and sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association, was the second between Allen and Kaine but the first of the general election. It was not televised live, although excerpts will air Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
There was no gaffe by either candidate — unlike in December, when Allen seemed not to understand how birth-control pills work. Allen held his own and was less scripted than he was in his primary debates, but Kaine was quicker with statistics, often appearing like the skilled trial lawyer he used to be.
Most of the debate centered on the key issue in the race — the economy — with both men aggressively accusing each other of supporting tax hikes and increased spending as they tried to gain the upper hand.
Allen said he sided with businessmen, such as the one he met who told him government should get “off my back and out of my pockets.’’ He said he would refuse to raise taxes, even coupled with spending cuts, and instead advocated for a simpler and more fair tax code. He accused Kaine of trying to raise $4 billion in taxes as governor.