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ABINGDON, Va. - George Allen ended up with the best of all worlds.
The former Virginia governor and Senator made the call earlier this summer to skip the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. The move signaled how tight a race he was in with former governor and one-time Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine in the open seat campaign to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Webb.
As it worked out, he got to engage in old-fashioned retail politicking in a Virginia that Democrats, including Kaine and President Barack Obama, had no intention of leaving alone for a full week. And he'll still get the exposure of the national ticket when he appears with GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan in Richmond today at a campaign rally to be held less than 24 hours after national Republicans gaveled out their Tampa confab.
"You give me a choice between Southwest Virginia and Tampa, and I'll choose Southwest Virginia each time," Allen said here Thursday at a lunch with veterans. "This is where I got my start."
After graduating from the University of Virginia law school in 1977, Allen clerked here for U.S. District Court Judge Glen Williams.
GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Ryan had been expected to rally in Richmond with Allen today, the first day after the convention. At the last minute this morning, the campaign diverted Romney to New Orleans, which bore most of the brunt of Hurricane Isaac this week.
Still, Ryan's appearance is a move by the national ticket befitting Virginia's status as a battleground. "I hope they spend a lot of time in Virginia," Allen said Thursday.
Tailing Each Other on the Trail
During the GOP convention, Allen might have had the commonwealth to himself among national Republicans, but Democrats made sure he knew they were here, too.
On Tuesday, Allen spoke to the Leisure World retirement community's Republican Club, just outside of Leesburg. The day before, Kaine was in Leesburg meeting and greeting with local officials, and on Thursday spoke to the Leisure World Democratic Club. Both candidates even used the same venue, the Monroe Auditorium.
On Wednesday, Obama and Kaine and former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) rallied about 7,500 in Charlottesville, with Perriello in particular jabbing at Allen.
"George Allen, I have more to say about than I have time allotted here today," Perriello said before turning back to praise Kaine.
The picturesque college town is the site of Allen's formative political years and is what he affectionately refers to as his time at "Mr. Jefferson's university."