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George Allen Seeks to Avoid Abortion Bill Controversy

Steve Helber/Associated Press
As former Virginia Govs. Tim Kaine (left) and George Allen vie for the state’s open Senate seat, Allen has been steering clear of the ruckus over an abortion-related bill in the state Legislature.

Democrats pounced after the House of Delegates passed the first iteration of the bill on Feb. 13, and the Kaine campaign spun the controversy into a funnel for donations and volunteers. Kaine held a conference call on the subject on Feb. 22, calling on Allen to “reconsider” his support for a separate piece of legislation defining when life begins. That “personhood” bill, sponsored by state Del. Bob Marshall (R), who is also running for Senate, failed to pass.

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) took heat over his support for the ultrasound measure, inviting media coverage questioning whether his potential as a presidential running mate this year was irrevocably damaged. Allen was able to avoid the ruckus by declining to state a position on the bill, despite continued calls from Democrats for him to do so.

“I think that they want to talk about these issues so they can avoid having to address any other issues that are being discussed when you’re going out on the trail,” Allen consultant Dan Allen said, citing gas prices, health care and jobs as what Allen hears about most. “I think that for Tim Kaine, as well as a lot of Democrats nationally, those are not issues they want to be addressing right now. I think they’re trying to hang on to and distract into other issues as much as they say that they’re not.”

Kaine has been touring the state during the past couple of weeks to discuss job creation with local businesses, business groups and local chambers of commerce, including two economic roundtables in Southside on Friday and Saturday. But his campaign clearly views women’s rights as an uncomfortable issue for Allen.

The Kaine campaign stated in a Feb. 13 release that Kaine “would protect and expand access to health care and contraception” while Allen would “take us backward.”

On Feb. 28, Kaine called on Allen to urge McDonnell to veto the ultrasound bill, and Kaine campaign manager Mike Henry emailed supporters Thursday to highlight how close the U.S. Senate vote was that day to table an amendment sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would allow companies and insurance providers to opt out of mandated birth control coverage for religious reasons.

“Washington doesn’t need another Senator who will push a divisive social agenda,” Henry said. “We need Tim Kaine in the Senate — the kind of guy who is focused on creating jobs and implementing policies that will help our economy grow.”

Two polls released in the past week — one by NBC News-Marist and one by Roanoke College — have found either Kaine or Allen finally taking a substantial lead in the race, though every past poll on the race has indicated only a statistically insignificant margin between the candidates.

Allen still has a primary to win before his race with Kaine officially begins, but his campaign is sure to pore over today’s GOP primary results for clues heading into what will likely be one of the closest Senate races in the country.

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