But shortly after leaving the debate stage, Allen went after his Democratic opponent, telling reporters: “It’s typical of Tim Kaine. His record is always one of looking to raise taxes. When he was governor, he tried to raise taxes on people earning as little as $17,000 a year. He wanted to raise taxes on buying used cars.”
Kaine, who had said in the debate that he would be open to “some minimum tax level for everyone,” later qualified his statement, noting that he had not actually proposed a minimum income tax. He had merely said he would consider one in response to a question about a controversial comment Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made about “47 percent” of Americans not paying income taxes.
Several times during the debate, he laid out his specific plan for fixing the nation’s fiscal woes — one that did not involve such a tax.
The faceoff came one day after a Washington Post poll showed Kaine with an eight-point lead in the long-deadlocked contest — among the most competitive races in the country, with the outcome possibly determining which party controls the Senate. With seven weeks to go before Election Day, the race had been neck-and-neck in polls going back to May 2011.
Kaine and Allen are fighting to succeed Sen. James Webb (D), who is retiring from the Democratic-controlled chamber. Allen lost the seat to Webb six years ago.
The debate was mostly civil, touching on issues such as jobs and the economy, women’s issues and gay rights, looming defense cuts and the federal health-care overhaul. Each man seemed to take pains to compliment the other on something; Allen praised Kaine’s response to the Virginia Tech shootings, and Kaine gave Allen kudos for his vigor on the campaign trail.
“Muted” was how Bob Holsworth, a retired Virginia Commonwealth University political scientist, summed up the hour.
But the rhetoric cranked up afterward, when Allen and other Republicans seized on Kaine’s professed openness to a minimum income tax.
Gregory led the program off with a new topic — Romney’s “47 percent” remark — one that has brought headaches to the Republican presidential campaign in recent days. On Thursday, it was Virginia’s Democratic Senate candidate who found himself ensnared in the flap.
The subject might have been expected to cause more trouble for Allen, who presumably would want to distance himself from the sentiment without seeming to criticize his party’s nominee. But it was Kaine who found himself on the defensive as Republicans trumpeted what they called proof of his tax-happy tendencies.