Former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and Republican ex-Sen. George Allen met Thursday night at Virginia Tech for their final debate in the Virginia Senate race and continued to pound away at each other.
Much of the debate — the last in a series began all the way back in December 2011 — covered familiar ground from previous ones: Allen attacking Kaine as running to be “President Obama’s senator” and against Virginia’s interests; Kaine responding by calling on Republicans and Democrats to work together and criticizing Allen as an extreme partisan figure; Kaine calling for a balanced approach of both spending cuts and some tax increases to solve the federal deficit; and Allen calling for lower taxes and less regulation to get the economy moving again.
But in a discussion on the budget-sequestration deal, and the looming specter of sharp spending cuts, the two came to blows.
“Well, once again Tim talks about raising taxes again,” Allen said. “And I think it is very wrong to be using the 200 men and women — 200,000 men and women in Virginia, whose jobs are threatened by this sequestration deal, that I opposed and Tim has said in debates is the right thing to do. They should never be used in political debates as a political bargaining chip to raise taxes on job-creating small businesses.”
When Kaine’s turn came, he fired back at Allen.
“George, you just started your answer by saying that I’m trying to hold the military hostage to raise taxes,” Kaine said. “You and I are both fathers, and this one is very personal to me. I have a son who has just started a career in the military. I am not gonna do things that will hurt the troops or hurt defense. I am not gonna do things that will hurt veterans.”
At the beginning of the next question, on health care, Allen instead returned to the previous topic. The following exchange occurred:
Allen: “It’s very important. I was talking about holding hostage the men and women, 200,000 whose jobs are at risk—”
Kaine: “But we’re not talking about hostages, George.”
Allen: “I didn’t use the word ‘hostage.’”
Kaine: “You did use the word ‘hostage.’”
Allen: “—As political bargaining chips.”
Kaine: “‘Hostages.’ We are not talking about hostages, we are talking about the American military.”
Allen: “Let me use the words of the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Panetta, a Democrat, who said that this sequestration deal, it would be ‘devastating’ to our military. That’s why I can never imagine myself voting for something that could be so potentially harmful to our military readiness and jobs in Virginia. Tim, you supported it and said it’s the right thing to do. You cannot avoid the fact that even the Secretary of Defense said this would be devastating to our military. And if you listen to military contractors, defense contractors, it has already affected them.
A short while later, Kaine later returned to the topic
“Saying that somebody is gonna hold the military as hostages is like saying that somebody’s is anti-Virginian if they support the President of the United States. It’s exactly the kind of rhetoric that we need less of, not more of in Washington,” Kaine said. “On the sequestration issue, let’s go back to the deal as it was done, George. In the summer of 2011, a deal was needed to avert, in Gov. Bob McDonnell’s words, an international fiscal collapse. … We were trying to avoid a fiscal collapse, but George Allen and a few people stood outside and shook their fists and said no, we do not want to support a compromise.”
The PollTracker Average shows Kaine leading, 47.9 percent to 45.4 percent, and that Kaine appears to have been pulling away from Allen in recent surveys.