Virginia GOP Senate candidate George Allen and his wife, Susan, speak to supporters before voting in the Republican primary in Alexandria on Tuesday.
Virginia’s TV airwaves have been clogged for months with presidential and Senate campaign ads, but it’s only a taste of the saturation to come before Election Day.
The marquee Senate race between George Allen, who won the Republican primary on Tuesday, and Democrat Tim Kaine is a contrast of style and policy between two well-known former governors — and it’s likely to remain tight until November. But they are in some ways simply along for the ride in a state fiercely competitive at the presidential level.
President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney will drive the state’s turnout and inevitably have an outsized role in who wins the Senate race. Both battles are crucial to the parties’ efforts to control Congress and the White House.
Speaking with reporters at an Allen event in Ashburn on Monday, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) praised Obama’s 2008 campaign operation and “uplifting” message but said this cycle’s electorate in Virginia will be different and this race much closer. He also predicted state turnout higher than 70 percent — and an Allen victory.
“There are some issues clearly between the two that I think favor George Allen,” McDonnell said. “There’s no question the presidential election will drive a lot of voters to the polls, and so in some measure the Allen-Kaine outcome will be determined by how well Romney does in Virginia.”
Sen. Mark Warner, the other top surrogate in the Senate race, said that if either of the two candidates picks up crossover voters, it would be Kaine.
“I think there are going to be folks who vote for Gov. Romney and Gov. Kaine,” the Virginia Democrat said. “I’m not sure how many Obama-Allen voters there are going to be.”
Outside groups have already spent millions on TV ads in the swing state, targeting both races. NBC News reported on Tuesday that three of the eight media markets nationwide with the highest presidential advertising points this week are in Virginia. The Obama campaign is on the air in the state this week with an ad critical of Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts.
Voters in the state already inundated with radio and television advertising for the presidential contest should expect an increase in attention now that the Senate race has kicked off. On Wednesday morning, American Crossroads, a GOP-aligned super PAC, announced a significant ad buy against Kaine tying the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee to Obama. Beyond advertising, the Kaine campaign announced Wednesday morning it has agreed to participate in at least eight broadcast debates around the state. Fresh off his primary win, Allen has not yet confirmed any general election debates.