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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, June 23, 2006

Polls show Webb gaining on Allen; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Two polls released this week had good news for Democratic U.S. Senate challenger James Webb.

Meanwhile, Republican incumbent George Allen threw down the gauntlet over Iraq. Webb, a former Reagan administration secretary of the Navy, seeks to unseat Allen, a former governor running for his second six-year term.

Two new polls released this week show the challenger within striking distance, but the incumbent still holding a lead outside the margin of error.

A survey of 500 likely voters last week found Allen with a 10-point lead on Webb, 51 percent to 41 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Meanwhile, a Zogby-Wall Street Journal poll of Senate races across the country shows Webb with support from 43.5 percent of the electorate, while Allen has 48.8 percent. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Both surveys send “a message to Senator Allen that folks aren’t happy with his representation,” said Kristian Denny Todd, Webb’s communications director.

Allen’s positions too closely reflect those of the Bush administration, Todd said.

“It’s been Bush policy rubber-stamping representation,” she said. “They’re ready for a change.”

But this week’s polling doesn’t mean anything, according to the Allen campaign.

Dick Wadhams, Allen’s campaign manager, didn’t mince words on either survey, in particular the numbers.

“[Zogby’s] numbers are a joke,” Wadhams said, noting that the pollster predicted President Bush would lose the election in 2004. “The Wall Street Journal ought to be embarrassed that they hired him.”

The Rasmussen poll is “more credible than Zogby,” but should still be taken with a grain of salt, he added.

The real issue of the week, Wadhams said, is Thursday’s vote in the U.S. Senate on amendments that would have called for a U.S. pullout from Iraq.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who endorsed and campaigned with Webb before the primary earlier this month, introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have called on troops to be out of Iraq by July 2007.

“Here we have the most important debate in the U.S. Senate on Iraq in a year,” Wadhams said. “He has been silent all week? Why wasn’t he willing to stand up and be counted on those amendments, one of which was sponsored by his friend and ally John Kerry?”

Allen advocates staying in Iraq until the new government is able to handle its own security problems via the new army and other security forces, calling Kerry’s amendment a “retreat.”

Calling Webb out on Iraq “is kind of laughable, given that Senator Allen has one position, and that’s the president’s position,” Todd said. “He takes every cue from the administration.”
She said the Democratic candidate has been unequivocal about his stance.

“[Webb] favors immediate withdrawal from Iraq,” Todd said. “He would argue against setting a date certain, because the focus of the issue becomes a date, rather than the process.”

Instead, nations such as Syria, Bahrain and Kuwait need to be called to the table to talk about how and when the United States could begin leaving, she said. Multi-national talks are essential.

“Ultimately, they’ll always be living in the region with the Iraqis, so they need to be involved in the process,” she said. “Once these steps were taken, and withdrawal begins, all U.S. troops should be out of Iraq in a year and a half to two years.”

Webb told reporters last week that U.S. troops in Iraq were making the security situation worse, rather than better.

Election Day is Nov. 7.