Kaine, Allen hunt for votes the old-fashioned way

Timothy M. Kaine and George Allen focused on retail politics Saturday, hoping to attract voters with in-person appeals in the closing weeks of their U.S. Senate campaign.

Allen (R) spent the afternoon mingling with attendees of the Poquoson Seafood Festival, while fellow former governor Kaine met with grass-roots workers in Prince William County, a key Virginia bellwether, before heading to a similar evening rally in Fairfax Station.

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At a cramped Democratic victory office in a Dale City strip mall, Kaine rallied volunteers for the final 2 1 / 2 weeks of door-knocking and phone calls.

With polls showing a consistently tight race, the two campaigns are battling over an increasingly narrow sliver of undecided voters — people who have not been persuaded by the millions of dollars in ads that have run in the battleground state.

“It’s not the ads that are going to determine the outcome. . . . You are much more likely to find an undecided voter at this point who will be swayed by person-to-person” contact, Kaine said.

Kaine also emphasized the importance of reaching out to every voter, even those who might be planning to support Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the presidential race.

Kaine won Prince William in his 2005 governor’s race, and the county has picked the winner of every statewide contest since then, bouncing back and forth between Democrats and Republicans.

“The fact that Prince William was starting to be a battleground [in 2005] made people start looking at Virginia for presidential politics and say Virginia’s a battleground,” Kaine said.

Adam Cook, the Democratic nominee challenging Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) in the 1st Congressional District, said he noticed a change in the party base’s attitude since 2008.

“It’s not the same level of giddiness,” said Cook, 35-year-old former Air Force JAG lawyer. “It’s more realistic, more grounded. We’ve got work to do.”

Anita Robertson, 41, a federal government employee who lives in Woodbridge, said she had volunteered for the last two Democratic presidential campaigns. This year, she’s decided to give some time to Kaine.

“What I found out in 2010,” Robertson said, when Republicans gained ground in Virginia and all over the country, “was that it’s probably more important that I do it on those non-presidential elections, because you get the crazies in [office] when you don’t.”

Allen, meanwhile, spent his afternoon pressing the flesh at the Poquoson Seafood Festival in Hampton Roads.

He made no speech nor grand entrance, but merely shook hands with festival-goers. Sporting his trademark cowboy boots, he was full of Southern charm. “I’d sure appreciate y’all’s vote,” he said often.

Many who had come looking for fried seafood and carnival rides were surprised to find themselves chatting — sometimes at length — with a former governor and senator.

“Darn it! Shoot!” Allen exclaimed while hearing how Jett Johnson, 17, Grafton High School’s quarterback, broke his leg in a game. The former Redskins coach’s son wanted all the details: “Were you running an option? . . . Was it on artificial turf?”

“I like him because he’s smart and down-to-earth,” said John Anderson, 62, who is retired from the Air Force and lives in Poquoson.

Mixed with the friendly chit-chat were serious policy discussions with anyone who was so inclined, such as Jennifer Parish, superintendent of Poquoson City Schools. She shared concerns about how looming defense cuts scheduled to take effect in January — known as “sequestration” — will shrink funding to her schools, which receive federal “impact aid” from the government based on the number of military children who attend.

“You just added another reason” for opposing the cuts, Allen said.

As the Senate campaign continues, both parties were watching the case of Colin Small, a Pennsylvania native who was arrested in Harrisonburg this week on 13 charges of voter registration fraud after he was allegedly seen discarding completed voter registration forms.

Small worked for a firm that had been contracted by the Republican Party of Virginia to register voters. State and national Republicans quickly distanced themselves from Small and his alleged actions, but some Democrats suggested it was part of a broader pattern by the GOP. Small could not be reached Saturday.

Asked about the issue Saturday, Allen spokeswoman Emily Davis referred questions to the party.

Kaine said he did not know whether it is an isolated incident or something more. But he criticized the state Board of Elections for deciding not to ask state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II for an investigation. A elections board official told the Associated Press Friday that Small’s case appeared to be an isolated incident.

“The State Board of Elections should take it seriously,” Kaine said. “Why wouldn’t the State Board of Elections have an investigation? How would they know [if it’s an isolated incident]? I hope it’s investigated and I hope it’s an isolated incident.”

Vozella reported from Poquoson.

 
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