Virginia Senate race tops in outside spending

October 26, 2012

By David Sherfinski-The Washington Times

The U.S. Senate contest in Virginia between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen is far and away the most expensive Senate race in the country in terms of third-party spending, underscoring the closeness of a race that’s essentially been tied from the outset and its importance in determining which party will control the chamber come January.

With less than two weeks until Election Day, outside spending in the race — excluding party committee money — now stands at more than $28 million, with the U.S. Senate contest in Wisconsin between Republican Tommy G. Thompson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin coming in second at just over $23 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Those races, along with the Ohio matchup between Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel, are the only Senate campaigns in the country to crack the $20 million mark when money spent by party committees is excluded.

The $28 million Virginia figure is more than the campaigns of Mr. Allen and Mr. Kaine have spent combined. Among the third-party cash, slightly more than $10 million has been spent either in support of Mr. Kaine or in opposition to Mr. Allen, while $16.5 million has been spent opposing Mr. Kaine and $1.5 million for Mr. Allen.

With such a closely watched race in a state President Obama and Mitt Romney are heavily courting, the level of outside spending is not surprising, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, which runs

“There’s nothing special about Virginia,” she said. “The interesting research question is, ‘What kind of synergy do you get from the fact that there’s a presidential race and Senate race that are both very consequential?’ “[If] you get that, you essentially have every ad addressed against Kaine addressed against Obama.”

Mr. Allen has attempted to capitalize on the connection between Mr. Obama and Mr. Kaine, leading off the third and final debate between the candidates last week by asserting that he would be “Virginia’s senator,” as opposed to Mr. Kaine, who he said would merely be a rubber stamp.

“Tim wants to be President Obama’s senator,” Mr. Allen said. “In Washington, you deserve a strong, independent voice — not an echo.”

The candidates are also tangling over who is more likely to help break the partisan divide in Washington. Mr. Allen, for example, paints Mr. Kaine’s decision to serve as chairman of the Democratic National Committee in his final year as governor as an unforgivable abdication of his duties to serve in an overtly partisan role.

Mr. Kaine, meanwhile, has consistently pointed to derogatory remarks Mr. Allen has made about Democrats in the past, such as encouraging Republicans in 1994 to knock Democrats’ “soft teeth down their whiny throats,” as emblematic of the current bickering and gridlock on Capitol Hill.

The two have frenetically barnstormed the state, speaking to senior citizens about their views on Social Security and Medicare and to small businesses and defense contractors about looming defense cuts that could devastate Virginia’s military-rich economy. Mr. Kaine has a 1-point lead in the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls, and both campaigns insist that the race will stay neck and neck through to Election Day.
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