Timothy M. Kaine’s (D) campaign took its first direct rhetorical shot at George Allen (R) in the 2012 Senate race Tuesday, seeking to tar the Republican as a hypocrite on the issue of raising the debt ceiling.

Though the two former Virginia governors still have to secure their respective parties’ nominations before they can square off to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D), both men are heavy favorites to make the general election ballot. Since he entered the race last month, Kaine has focused more on organizing his campaign and touting his own credentials than attacking Allen by name.

But the current debate over increasing the debt limit has put Allen’s record when he served in the Senate in the spotlight.

In an interview last week on Fox Business, Allen said of the upcoming move to boost the debt ceiling: “It is leverage that we conservatives have to say, ‘if you want us to vote for this, there needs to be real cuts’ ... And if we don’t get it, we’re not going to vote for that debt ceiling increase.”

Responding to those comments, Kaine adviser Mo Elleithee said Tuesday: “Senator Allen’s comments are curious. If he believes that the debt ceiling should be tied to spending cuts, then why did he vote in the Senate to raise the debt ceiling four times while increasing the debt by more than $3 trillion? Perhaps the guy who helped create the problem is not the best person to give advice on how to fix it.”

Allen’s campaign responded by suggesting that Kaine was the one with the irresponsible position.

“It is not a surprise that Tim Kaine — one of the Democrats’ leading advocates for the $800 billion jobless stimulus, bailouts and government-run health care — is questioning if Washington needs spending cuts,” said Allen spokeswoman Katie Wright. “Rather than defend the status quo of out-of-control spending and record deficits, Tim Kaine should come to the table with real solutions to help solve our fiscal crisis. Any vote on the debt ceiling needs to be paired with a vote on a balanced budget amendment and ironclad spending cuts.”

The Kaine campaign’s attack echoes one being made by Allen’s foes in the Republican primary contest. Jamie Radtke, former head of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots, has been hammering Allen for months on the idea that his record when he served in the Senate simply wasn’t conservative enough — on the debt ceiling as well as education, the Medicare prescription drug bill and other issues.

Kaine’s camp isn’t making that charge, but rather trying to brand Allen as both a hypocrite and economically irresponsible. As have most Democrats, Kaine has said that not raising the debt ceiling would “cripple the economy,” though he also said both parties need to “commit to long-term deficit reductions.”