Correction to This Article
A Nov. 6 article incorrectly said that the father of Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) had been a Super Bowl- winning Redskins coach. The elder George Allen led the team to Super Bowl VII in 1973, but the Redskins lost to the Miami Dolphins.

Candidates Making Final Push to Break Out

U.S. Senate candidate Jim Webb greets supporters at a Buchanan County rally, where he was joined by former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey (D) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.).
U.S. Senate candidate Jim Webb greets supporters at a Buchanan County rally, where he was joined by former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey (D) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.). (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
By Michael D. Shear and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 6, 2006

Two of the Washington region's top Republicans -- Virginia Sen. George Allen and Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. -- spent yesterday fighting off fierce electoral challenges that could stall their political careers and reverse GOP successes in their states.

Allen returned to the folksy approach that has endeared him to Virginians for almost two decades, tossing a football at FedEx Field before the Redskins game as he schmoozed with potential voters at a tailgate party. Later, he ditched a pair of brown Wranglers for a suit at an Ashburn event with former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Ehrlich mingled with volunteers at a Republican call center in Prince George's County yesterday afternoon, appearing relaxed and upbeat about his prospects. Afterward, he, too, campaigned with Giuliani, whom he called "wildly popular within the [Republican] party and with many independents and Democrats."

The Democratic challengers in those races also used the last weekend of the campaign to stir their supporters. In Virginia, James Webb campaigned in the southwest region. In Maryland, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley appeared with former president Bill Clinton -- something Webb is scheduled to do today.

Public polls showed both races locked in dead heats. Surveys by Mason-Dixon published yesterday had Allen trailing Webb by one percentage point and Ehrlich tied with O'Malley. Previous polls, including a Washington Post poll last weekend, showed O'Malley ahead.

The reelection bids by Allen and Ehrlich, along with the Senate race in Maryland between Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R), are crucial to national and local political efforts. The Senate races could decide which party controls that chamber of Congress. But the election tomorrow also will offer fresh evidence of political trends in the Washington region, where Allen, Ehrlich and Steele have created a resurgence in their states' parties. Losses by any of them -- particularly incumbents Allen or Ehrlich -- would raise questions about the future of the GOP in their respective states.

Webb, for his part, finished a two-day swing through the rural communities of southwest Virginia with former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey (D) and the president of the United Mine Workers union. The last-minute blitz in the "Fightin' Ninth" congressional district has become a Democratic tradition in Virginia.

Webb will wrap up his campaign with a rally in Alexandria with Clinton.

O'Malley also was betting on Clinton's popularity in the largely Democratic Free State. He held a boisterous, late-night rally with the former president that drew more than 1,000 people to Prince George's.

Earlier, O'Malley was joined on the campaign trail by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, the latest big-city mayor to testify to O'Malley's national reputation as an effective reformer. Today he is scheduled to appear with former vice president Al Gore in Montgomery County.

Steele campaigned in churches and gave an interview on Fox News Channel, hoping to catch up to Cardin in what polls suggest is a tightening race. Cardin joined O'Malley at the Clinton rally and also campaigned at churches yesterday.

The former president and former New York mayor were the top draws this weekend, helping to swell crowds and whip passions for an election that voting officials say already promises larger-than-usual turnout.

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