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Tim Kaine, George Allen Throw Sharp Jabs at First Senate Debate

Steve Helber/Associated Press

“That’s not the prescription for success for families and small businesses in our country,” Allen said. “We need a different approach — a positive, constructive, proven one.”

Following Kaine’s defense of the stimulus, Allen held up a bar graph showing the increasing debt in the few years before and after Obama took office.

“Higher spending, higher unemployment, more burdensome regulations and taxes are not working,” Allen said. “What we need to do is reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit of our country, and I look forward to fighting for the voices and values of Virginians once again.”

The candidates at times butted in during the other’s answers, most notably when Kaine took exception to Allen’s description of his role as DNC chairman as “advocating for the likes of ... President Obama’s policies” rather than focusing on Virginia’s interests.

“The likes of President Obama?” Kaine asked, as the two talked over each other. “Wiping out al-Qaida, stopping the Iraq War, saving the auto industry. That’s not being consistent with Virginia’s interests? I see it differently than you do.”

That developed into a brief debate over the auto bailout and the role of government in such matters before the moderator broke up the back-and-forth. But Kaine’s vigorous defense of Obama made it clear that he will not back down from ties to a president whose approval ratings in Virginia have hovered in the low 40s.

Although this was a general election debate, Kaine and Allen must first win their respective primaries, though both are the overwhelming favorites. Several Republicans were not able to participate in the debate, hosted by the Virginia AP Managing Editors and the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association, as they did not meet the eligibility guidelines. To participate, candidates needed to have earned 15 percent or better in primary polls and raised at least 20 percent as much money as their party’s frontrunner by the end of October, according to the AP.

About a dozen tea party protesters lined up on the sidewalk on the south side of the Capitol, and Richmond tea party leader and Senate candidate Jamie Radtke released a statement criticizing Allen at the conclusion of the debate, which was streamed live on the Richmond Times-Dispatch website.

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