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In Virginia, Skipping GOP Convention Works Out Well for George Allen

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Former Virginia Gov. George Allen attended a meet-and-greet at Veramar Vineyard in Clarke County, Va. Allen was in the Northern Shenandoah Valley on a campaign swing for his Senatorial bid. Click here to see more photos from the campaign trail.

It was in the Charlottesville area, after earning a bachelor's as well as a law degree at UVA, that Allen started his political career, serving in the state House of Delegates from 1982 to 1991. He won a U.S. House seat in a special election in 1991.

Allen kept a relatively low profile on Wednesday. At around the same time as the Obama-Kaine rally, he was in nearby Stuarts Draft, touring McKee Foods Corp., maker of Little Debbie products. Later on that evening, he attended a fundraiser in Wythe County.

Obamacare, Redskins and Hungry Mother

Like any successful public official, Allen is able to tailor his approach depending on the audience. At Leisure World, that meant talking about health care - his first big applause line there was "I want to be the deciding vote to repeal Obamacare" - future generations and his beloved Washington Redskins, whose practice facility is just down the road in Ashburn. Allen, whose late father, George, coached the team and whose brother, Bruce, is the general manager, joked that "political campaigns are not conducive to being able to follow my brother."

On Thursday in the small town of Marion, he talked about water and sewer tax collections with a group of local officials huddled over coffee and doughnuts in the office of Ken Heath, Marion's Community and Economic Development director. "It's all about numbers," Heath said, outlining the town's plan to attract more people to visit the area, particularly downtown, which boasts the recently redeveloped Colonial revival-style General Francis Marion Hotel and the Lincoln Theater.

And in Abingdon on Thursday, Allen discussed issues of concern not just to veterans but many area voters: guns, energy policy and national defense. "We need to keep our promises to our veterans," he said, thundering against possible increases in premiums to the military's TRICARE health insurance.

The visits to Marion and Abingdon also reconnected Allen with his past. "I slept in Hungry Mother State Park in my sleeping bag" in his younger days, he told the Marion crowd, many of whom view the eccentrically named nearby park as a key to their tourism goals.

People in Marion also remembered him fondly. Rhonda Cox, whose Four Seasons Restaurant provided the coffee and doughnuts Thursday, told him she wanted to share some photos from his time as governor. "Oh, good. I'll look forward to seeing how much I've aged," Allen quipped. He caught up with one of his appointees to the state Gaming Commission, local attorney Herbert Clay.

Wine and Cinema

Not every crowd was in the mood to reminisce and kibbitz about the Redskins. On Saturday, the day the GOP brain trust made the decision to delay the Tampa convention, Allen was at Veramar Vineyard in Berryville, in the Old Dominion's sublimely scenic Shenandoah Valley wine country.

Clarke County Republicans gathered there to sip Veramar's Cab Franc and Riesling/Vidal, fete Allen and frame the election in near-apocalyptic terms.

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