The message was nearly identical to one he delivered nine days earlier at a pre-primary rally with supporters at another small business in Ashburn. Del. David Ramadan (R-Loudoun), an Allen supporter who attended both events, said he didn’t expect Allen’s emphasis to change much during the general election campaign.
“We’ll keep that focus of less government and less taxes and we’ll continue to do so, whether we’re talking to the base, or we’re talking to independents or we’re approaching even Democrats,” Ramadan said.
The hope for Allen’s camp is that his emphasis on jobs and the economy will serve as an all-purpose message, one that motivates conservatives and attracts centrists.
Allen spokeswoman Emily Davis said that the campaign would keep emphasizing “the issues Virginians are talking about around their kitchen table, including jobs, energy prices, health care and education,” and that “Democrats know they can’t win on their job-destroying economic record.”
Divisive social issues
Kaine’s team will continue to criticize Allen for his record in the Senate, just as his Republican primary foes did. And Democrats plan to tie Allen to divisive social issues.
“George Allen’s career-long record of pitting Virginians against one another, coupled with his role as a U.S. senator in helping to create our economic mess, is the opposite of what voters want and exactly why George Allen’s reelection effort is struggling to build enthusiasm,” said Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine.
For two consecutive years, Allen steadfastly avoided saying how he would have voted on the budget proposals of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). If Allen had endorsed Ryan’s blueprint, which includes significant changes to Medicare, he would have risked alienating moderates and seniors. But if he had criticized Ryan, that could have angered conservatives who revere the House budget chairman.
Yet Allen praised Ryan’s budget enough — calling it a “constructive plan” in 2011 and a “worthwhile” approach this year — that the Kaine campaign has already sought to link Allen to the proposals.
Allen did not take a position on the controversial bill in the General Assembly to require women to undergo a vaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion, nor did he say how he would vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act considered by the Senate last month. Allen did endorse the idea of federal legislation declaring that life begins at conception, and he backed a Senate measure that would have allowed insurance companies and employers to opt out of covering contraceptives.
Add that up, Democrats say, and Allen becomes increasingly unattractive to Virginia women and independents. Republicans counter that Allen generally didn’t seek out debates on social issues during the primary and that general election voters are much more worried about jobs.
Determining which argument will win the day may depend on the many residents, particularly in Northern Virginia, who were not around to form an impression of Allen the last time he was on the ballot.
“I think in Virginia you have had a lot of new voters who have moved into the state; they may not know him in that context,” Taylor said. “The whole campaign has been about reintroducing him.”