Sen. Clinton Supports Webb in Va. Campaign

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said voters should elect Democrats such as James Webb, who would ask
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said voters should elect Democrats such as James Webb, who would ask "the hard questions." (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
By Michael D. Shear and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton endorsed Democratic Senate candidate James Webb yesterday as he and Republican Sen. George Allen intensified their efforts to woo female voters in the Virginia campaign's closing month.

The high profile appearance by Clinton (D-N.Y.) at a fundraising lunch in Old Town Alexandria provided a needed boost to Webb, whom Allen has criticized for his past attitude toward women in the military.

While the former first lady was announcing her support for Webb, Allen was attending a similar function in Fredericksburg held by his wife, Susan, and Cecelia Howell, the wife of House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford).

The Senate candidates' views toward women have become a central character issue of the campaign. Allen, who has had problems with questions about his racial sensitivity, has sought to shift attention to Webb's opposition 27 years ago to women in combat.

Allen is running an expensive statewide television advertising campaign featuring three female graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy complaining about remarks Webb wrote in a 1979 magazine article, "Women Can't Fight." Webb, a former Marine and secretary of the Navy, began airing an ad yesterday with a female academy graduate rebutting the allegations.

Echoing the theme of Webb's ad, Clinton told reporters: "I've watched and analyzed what Jim Webb has done when he was in the Pentagon, opening up positions -- thousands of them -- to women when previously they had not been available. We have women serving with valor and distinction because the battlefield has changed."

A day after paying for a two-minute TV commercial calling for the campaign to focus on political issues instead of character issues, Allen said at the Fredericksburg luncheon that his Webb commercials are about "respect for women." His campaign vowed to continue attacking what they say is the Democrat's biggest vulnerability.

"That article from 1979 gives an insight into the core of James Webb that is not going to go away and is going to cut deeply," Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams said. He said the Democrats have "gone into a defensive posture, trying to blunt the criticism about Webb's disrespect of women."

Webb has said he was not wrong for participating in a national debate in the late 1970s about whether women should serve in the military. He has said he is "fully comfortable with the roles of women in the military today."

The most recent polls show the Allen-Webb race tied. Advisers for both camps said the winner Nov. 7 could be the candidate with an advantage among women, who account for 3.7 million, or slightly more than half, of Virginia's population.

Female voters helped Timothy M. Kaine (D) beat former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore (R) last year in the governor's race after Kaine offered messages about preschool, traffic and faith that were tailored specifically for church-going women in the suburbs.

Nationally, both parties have spent millions courting "soccer moms" and "security moms," mothers worried about terrorism and security issues.

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