Primary winners often retool their message for a general election — recall Mitt Romney’s spokesman saying his boss could change his message “almost like an Etch A Sketch.” But Allen’s camp sees little need to change the substance of his proposals because his primary was never really competitive and he spent relatively little time in fights on the right that might have alienated the middle.
Yet Democrats think Allen carved out enough positions during the primary — or conspicuously dodged them— to provide them with ample ammunition for November.
And the Republican’s campaign revealed its opening gambit of the general election last week, unveiling two TV ads designed to make Allen more personally appealing.
The spots feature two women who have long known Allen: Dorothy Jaeckle, vice chairman of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, and Betsy Beamer, the secretary of the commonwealth when Allen was governor. The women praise him as “good-natured” and “a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good listener.” One ad shows Allen playing in a park with a group of children.
The commercials are part of a broader effort to showcase his support, in personal terms, from “Virginia Voices,” rather than high-profile but impersonal endorsers. And they suggest the campaign sees the need to make Allen more likable, particularly to women.
“I think both sides are aware that the crucial swing voters are going to be women, younger women particularly,” said Jessica Taylor, a senior analyst for the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “Clearly, they’re trying to get this softer message out there. And it’s an acknowledgment that he could have a problem with women voters.”
After being heavily favored to win in 2006, Allen lost his Senate reelection race to Webb after he referred to an Indian American volunteer for the Webb campaign as “macaca,” an ethnic slur in some cultures. Allen has apologized, but critics say the moment was revealing.
Kaine made that case during their one-on-one debate in December, accusing Allen of “name-calling and division and bullying.”
Webb beat Allen by fewer than 10,000 votes overall, but exit polls showed that the Democrat won female voters by 10 points and self-described independents by 12 points.
A Washington Post poll released last month showed Kaine leading Allen among women by 7 points, while the two were nearly tied among independents. The survey also found that Allen was viewed favorably by 47 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 31 percent. (Kaine’s score was 41 and 41.)
‘Focus of less government’
During a tour of Tart Lumber in Sterling last week, Allen made small talk with the hardware store’s employees, chatting with the paint salesman about touching up his concrete outdoor steps (Allen purchased a can of gray paint) and telling a worker in the wood shop about the time he built a cedar closet for his log cabin.