Any thoughts that Virginia's U.S. Senate candidates would take a day off before November, even to celebrate an Election Night victory, were quickly dispelled Wednesday.
Virginia's Senate race was already well under way just hours after Republican George Allen captured his party's nomination Tuesday night and officially kicked off his campaign against Democrat Tim Kaine, inciting the political trash talk and big-money spending that promises to persist for the next five months.
Allen easily won his primary with 65 percent of the vote, despite a dreary turnout and last-minute surge by Tea Party activist Jamie Radtke. But he awoke Wednesday to a challenge from Kaine to go head to head in eight debates.
The two former governors already debated once during the primary season -- when Allen still faced three challengers for his party's nomination -- and have another scheduled for July 21.
"In addition to meeting with Virginians face to face throughout the commonwealth, we of course look forward to debates this fall to contrast our records," Allen spokeswoman Emily Davis said without hinting at how many debates they would accept.
Kaine, too, had a busy morning, responding to another negative television ad from Crossroads GPS, a conservative group headed by GOP strategist Karl Rove. The group announced Wednesday it would spend $4.6 million on six Senate races nationwide, including Virginia's.
"We are up against third-party organizations that will use unlimited amounts of money to flood the airwaves with false attacks with no recourse," Kaine told supporters in an email.
As loud and expensive as the race is expected to get, the outcome of Virginia's Senate race may hinge on the presidential race. The fate of Kaine and Allen are closely tied to President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, who are investing millions of dollars to win the critical swing state.
Kaine is close to Obama, having served as his Democratic National Committee chairman. Allen, like Romney, is viewed as an establishment figure. Nearly every poll since last year has shown the Allen-Kaine race deadlocked.
"There are obviously some issues solely between Gov. Allen and Tim Kaine. They both have records," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Monday at an Allen event. "But overall, the turnout in this election, which will be 70 percent-plus, will be driven in good measure by the Obama and Romney election."