With One Week Left, Surrogates Swarm Va.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), left, and former Virginia governor and senator George Allen (R) stand in for their parties' presidential candidates.
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), left, and former Virginia governor and senator George Allen (R) stand in for their parties' presidential candidates. (Linda Davidson - The Washington Post)
By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Democrat Timothy M. Kaine and Republican George Allen clashed on offshore oil drilling, climate change and energy independence at a recent debate attended by a couple of hundred people at the Washington Dulles Airport Marriott.

Neither of their names appears on any ballot next week, but Kaine and Allen have been campaigning at an increasingly feverish pace.

Kaine, Virginia's governor, and Allen, a former governor and senator, have packed schedules as stand-ins for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

An unprecedented number of stand-ins (or "surrogates") are headlining rallies, town hall meetings and news conferences in Virginia this year. The state's top current and former elected officials have spent months filling in for Obama and McCain, and dozens of other nationally recognized politicians and celebrities are traveling to the state almost daily.

"We think we are decent stands-ins,'' said Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, a candidate for governor next year and co-chairman of McCain's Virginia campaign. "We can talk about the issues and give a sense of the person. The candidates are best, but surrogates are a good start."

A week before the Nov. 4 election, surrogate events are taking place every day in all corners of the state. Although they do not receive anywhere near the same enthusiasm or attention as visits by Obama and McCain, they help excite party activists, keep the campaigns in the news and possibly sway a vote or two.

Kaine has traveled to many states to campaign for Obama, including Maryland, Arizona and West Virginia, but has primarily stumped in Virginia since Obama secured the nomination this summer.

"The campaign has used me in a lot of different ways,'' Kaine said. "But almost all my work since June has been in Virginia because, hey, this is where the action is."

Members of both parties think Virginia is critical to either candidate's ability to capture the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the White House.

No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Virginia since 1964, but a Washington Post poll released this week shows Obama leads McCain 52 percent to 44 percent among the state's likely voters.

A visit today will be Obama's ninth to Virginia since securing the Democratic presidential nomination. His running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, has been five times. McCain has been three times, including twice with his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Palin made another three stops in the state yesterday, including in Leesburg.

But Obama and McCain, and their running mates and spouses, are dividing their time among several battleground states, including Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, leaving others to stump for them in Virginia.

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