Allen To Begin TV Blitz Today

Sen. George Allen's campaign manager said the media buy had nothing to do with the nationwide fallout over the Republican's controversial remarks.
Sen. George Allen's campaign manager said the media buy had nothing to do with the nationwide fallout over the Republican's controversial remarks. (By Brendan Smialowski -- Getty Images)
By Tim Craig and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) will launch a statewide television advertising blitz today, campaign officials said, taking advantage of his sizeable financial advantage over his Democratic opponent in the Nov. 7 election.

Allen, who could spend more than $10 million on his campaign against James Webb, will start airing two commercials in the expensive Washington media market and one that will reach voters in every part of the state.

The ads will air as Allen and Webb prepare for the traditional Labor Day start of the fall campaign at stops across the state.

Recently, Allen has endured two weeks of negative publicity and a slip in the polls for comments he made to a Fairfax County native of Indian descent who was working for Webb. Allen called the young man, S.R. Sidarth, a "macaca" and urged a crowd in Southwest Virginia to welcome him "to America and the real world of Virginia." Macaca is a genus of monkeys and is used as a slur in some cultures.

Dick Wadhams, Allen's campaign manager, said yesterday that the media buy had nothing to do with the nationwide fallout over Allen's remarks.

One of the ads that will air in Northern Virginia appears targeted at the area's highly skilled workforce, which includes many immigrants. The 30-second ad, which will initially air only in Washington, highlights Allen's sponsorship of a bill in Congress to increase the number of engineers and scientists while boosting federal funding for science and technology research. As Allen talks about the bill, shots of children working on computers and in a chemistry lab flash across the screen.

A separate ad touting Allen's efforts to crack down on gangs and child sexual predators will be shown statewide. Neither ad mentions Webb.

"It's time to start communicating with voters," said Wadhams, who added that the ads were planned before Allen's controversial remarks. "We are going up [on the air], and we will stay up through the election."

Wadhams declined to say how much money the campaign plans to spend to air the two commercials, except to describe it as a "heavy" media buy. Past candidates for statewide office say it can cost more than $1 million a week to air commercials that reach voters across the state.

Allen's commercials underscore his fundraising edge over Webb, who a spokesman said plans to air his first commercial in September.

As of June, Allen had $6.6 million, compared with Webb's $424,000. Allen, who is weighing a run for president in 2008, bolstered his bank account last week when President Bush headlined a fundraiser for him in Mount Vernon. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani was the featured guest at an Allen fundraiser in Hampton Roads yesterday. Giuliani also toured the port for a briefing on security.

Since winning the Democratic primary in June, Webb has struggled to persuade political observers and party leaders in Washington that he will raise enough money to stay competitive with Allen.

Webb campaign officials said fundraising has picked up in recent weeks, including fundraisers in Chicago, Los Angeles and Denver.

"We will be ready to compete," said Kristian Denny Todd, a Webb spokesman.

Yesterday, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) spent an hour making fundraising calls with Webb in Richmond. Former governor Mark R. Warner is also planning a fundraiser. The Webb campaign also announced this week that bestselling authors John Grisham and Stephen King will headline a fundraiser Sept. 24 in Charlottesville. Webb, a former secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, has written eight novels.

There are also signs that national Democratic leaders in Washington are starting to take Webb's candidacy more seriously in the wake of recent polls. New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said this week that the panel will help Webb overcome Allen's financial advantage.

Wadhams said Allen "always expected a competitive race."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company