With 2 Weeks to Go, Allen, Webb Ad Blitz Hits a Higher Gear

By Michael D. Shear and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

RICHMOND, Oct. 24 -- Virginia's Senate candidates and their national party backers will begin a final, multimillion-dollar advertising blitz Wednesday, flooding the state's airwaves with campaign commercials during the two weeks before Election Day.

The close battle between Republican incumbent George Allen and Democratic challenger James Webb has become a nationally watched race in which the GOP may have to make an unexpected stand to retain control of the Senate.

As a result, neither side is letting up. During the next week, television watchers in Northern Virginia will see an average of five Virginia Senate ads a day. Together, the campaigns and the Senate party committees in Washington are spending $3.45 million over the next week in Northern Virginia.

"Voters are going to see so much stuff," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of a nonpartisan political newsletter in the District. "If they are not numb already, they ought to shoot their brains full of Novocain."

Voters in other parts of the state will also be deluged with the commercials about Allen and Webb. But most of the money will be flowing to Northern Virginia and its expensive media market, where a week's worth of ads for one candidate costs about $1 million. By contrast, running the same number of ads in the Roanoke media market costs about $89,000.

By Nov. 7, the Virginia Senate candidates will probably spend more than $25 million. And the race, which has become closer than anyone predicted several months ago, has drawn financial resources for both parties away from other competitive states.

"There is a lot of national Democratic money flying into Virginia, and we are not going to stand idly by while it does," said Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has invested about $1.4 million in Virginia ads.

The Republican committee's first ad attacks Webb for his reaction to the Navy's Tailhook Association scandal, in which women were assaulted at a Las Vegas convention in 1991.

"Jim Webb, he called this scandal a witch hunt and a feminist plot," the female announcer says. "Jim Webb. Right for '06. 1806."

The ad cites a 1992 New York Times article in which Webb said, "A botched internal investigation and the ongoing revelations of inexcusable harassment of women . . . have also left in their wake a witch hunt that threatens to swamp the entire naval service."

Webb campaign officials said the GOP ad is unfair and takes Webb's past statements about Tailhook out of context.

"Like everything that comes out of Republicans these days, it is complete lies and distortions about Jim's record and what Jim has said and done in the past," said Kristian Denny Todd, a Webb spokeswoman. "The bottom line is they are desperate. For a guy who has been in office in this state for 26 years, [Allen] has nothing to offer but this kind of garbage."

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