The Forecast: 6 More Weeks Of Mud for Va.

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

RICHMOND, Sept. 26 -- Democratic Senate candidate James Webb launched an ad Tuesday attacking Republican George Allen on the decision to go to war in Iraq, even as Allen's campaign continued to respond to allegations that he used racial epithets in the 1970s and '80s.

Webb's new ad, which will be shown in Roanoke and Norfolk and on some Northern Virginia cable stations, criticizes Allen as too close to President Bush and calls for new leadership in the Senate. It shows video clips of Bush and Allen repeating that the United States must "stay the course" in Iraq.

"The people who failed to prevent this disaster are not the ones you can count on to fix it," Webb says in the ad. "We need to end our occupation of Iraq and to bring stability to the Middle East. We can do it, with the right kind of leadership. . . . We need leaders in the Senate, not followers."

Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams said the Webb ad offers "nothing in terms of substance" and represents the continuation of negative campaigning against the senator.

"He has yet to offer any kind of a clear position on what to do in Iraq," Wadhams said of Webb. "It's terribly consistent with Webb's continued vagueness and contradictions."

Allen's campaign is continuing to run an ad critical of Webb's decision earlier in the campaign to use footage of Ronald Reagan. "Would Ronald Reagan really endorse someone who hires people who call him a fool and disrespects the wishes of his widowed wife? That's just fiction," the announcer on Allen's ad says.

Allen is also attacking Webb's attitude toward women in fliers mailed to voters across the state.

One focuses on the Tailhook scandal, in which women were harassed at a convention. "Webb denounced the women and dismissed the entire scandal as 'spun up,' " the ad states. The other focuses on an article Webb wrote in 1979 titled "Women Can't Fight."

"If James Webb had his way," the flier says, "we'd send women back to a time when they weren't respected, and weren't treated fairly -- and we certainly wouldn't have women studying at the military academies."

Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd called the fliers "pathetic" and wrong.

"They are desperate," she said. "They can't talk about one positive thing. They can't talk about anything resembling his job or representing this state."

With less than six weeks to go before Election Day, the race between Allen and Webb has tightened as it has become dominated by accusations, countercharges and defenses. And political observers say they expect both sides to keep up the negativity.

Allen on Tuesday continued to dispute charges that he used the "N-word" in the past. Two former associates said they recalled his use of the word, and one described an incident involving Allen stuffing a severed deer head into the mailbox of a black person.

The senator has called those accusations "totally false" and "nonsense." His campaign tried to cast doubt yesterday on the credibility of one of his accusers, radiologist R. Kendall Shelton.

Allen adviser Chris LaCivita pointed out news stories from January in North Carolina, where Shelton lives, about a woman who opened her mailbox to find a severed deer head. He suggested that Shelton's story may have been a fabrication based on that North Carolina incident.

Shelton called that ridiculous. He said he was not familiar with the town of Lumber Bridge, where the mailbox incident occurred. "I don't even know where that is," Shelton said.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, who attended U-Va. with Allen, insisted again Tuesday that he believes Allen has used racial epithets, although he acknowledged that he has never heard him directly.

In an interview on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" on Monday, Sabato said, "I'm simply going to say that I'm going to stay with what I know is the case. And the fact is that he did use the N-word, whether he's denying it now or not. He did use it."

LaCivita declined to criticize Sabato. "All I'm going to say about Larry is that he and George did not hang around the same people."

Webb campaigned Tuesday with former vice presidential candidate John Edwards in Fredericksburg, capping a week in which he raised nearly $1 million in a series of star-studded events.

His campaign confirmed that it raised about $100,000 in online donations after a debate on Meet the Press and about $300,000 at a fundraiser with former Gov. Mark R. Warner (D). Webb also collected about $200,000 at a fundraiser with authors John Grisham and Stephen King.

Webb also held a news conference with several former military officials who reiterated their support for the Democrat.

"He has the courage and integrity to ask the right questions, not just about the military and the armed forces, but about the country," said former NATO commander Wesley Clark.

Asked about the scandal enveloping Allen, Webb declined to comment, saying it was a distraction to his campaign.

"It's not relevant to what I'm trying to do," Webb said.

"There's six weeks left. I'm trying very hard to get our message out so people who will know who I am. That's really what's important to me."

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