Despite his proposals, Democrats note, Allen voted repeatedly to raise the debt ceiling and against blocking lawmakers’ annual pay raise.
As Allen’s opponents did during this year’s Republican primary contest, Kaine’s campaign has portrayed Allen as a hypocrite on budget issues.
“You talk like a fiscal conservative,” Kaine said to Allen at a debate in July, “but you never governed like one.”
Allen never considered himself a centrist, although he made some efforts to reach across party lines.
“I would say he was selective in his choices, but by no means did he look at that aisle as a Berlin Wall that you couldn’t cross,” former senator John W. Warner (R-Va.) recalled recently. And Ueland praised Allen for integrating into the Senate “without a lot of muss or fuss.”
Allen worked with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Internet taxation and nanotechnology, and with Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to spur wireless broadband development. (Allen cites his work with Wyden as evidence of his ability to collaborate across the aisle, although Wyden has endorsed Kaine.)
Allen drew news media attention for breaking with Warner on some issues: Allen opposed proposed tax increases by then-Gov. Mark Warner (D), while John Warner backed them.
Allen also criticized efforts by the bipartisan “Gang of 14” — which included John Warner — to avoid a Senate meltdown over judicial nominations.
A pivot to politics
Allen dove into campaign politics not long after he was elected to the Senate, and by the 2004 cycle, he was heading the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Although insiders questioned some of the committee’s strategic decisions, Republicans gained four Senate seats on Allen’s watch, including a marquee victory by John Thune over then-Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle in South Dakota.
The NRSC gave Allen a national platform and helped him cultivate a fundraising network — useful tools for a White House candidate. He later took multiple trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, at one point joking, “If I had my druthers, I would have been born in Iowa.”
“He really did have a credible path to the presidency, and he knew it,” said John Ullyot, a longtime aide to John Warner. “What that did is shape the positions that he took in Virginia.”
As his term progressed, Allen appeared to shift on some key issues. In 2004, he opposed an assault-weapons ban, although he had backed one during his 2000 campaign. And in 2005, he voted in favor of a mandate to increase the use of ethanol in fuels — a top issue in Iowa — after having opposed the idea.
A November 2005 profile in the conservative National Review magazine said Allen “has perhaps a better chance of winning the nomination than any other Republican. He combines the people skills of a Bill Clinton, with the convictions of a Ronald Reagan, with the non-threatening persona of a George W. Bush circa 2000, prior to his becoming a hate-figure for the Left.”
In the same story, Allen made clear that he was impatient in the Senate. “As governor,” he said, “I made more decisions in the morning than I make in the Senate in a week. . . . Decisions are action and I like action. I hate just treading water and standing still.”
Despite that frustration, Allen is eager to get back to the Senate, and John Warner said he isn’t surprised. For all the theorizing that Allen is motivated by a desire to erase the memory of his 2006 Senate loss, Warner has a simpler explanation: “He really likes public service and all that goes with it.”