McDonnell to join Allen on campaign trail next week

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Photo - Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will join Republican Senate candidate George Allen on the campaign trail next week, marking the first time since June that the popular Republican governor has turned out for Allen.

Allen and McDonnell will visit Northern Virginia on Tuesday and Hampton Roads the following Thursday, according to a source close to the campaign.

While Allen battles Democrat Tim Kaine in one of the mostly hotly contested Senate races in the country, McDonnell has spent much of his time touring on behalf of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and, as head of the Republican Governors Association, helping Republican gubernatorial candidates facing tight races.

Final U.S. Senate debate
Who: Democrat Tim Kaine, Republican George Allen
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Virginia Tech, Blacksburg
Sponsors: Virginia Tech, WSLS

McDonnell said his absence shouldn't be seen as a lack of interest in Allen's race. He said he often speaks out in support of Allen whenever he's campaigning in Virginia for Romney. He's also hosted fundraisers for Allen, whose race may be pivotal in determining whether Republicans take control of the Senate this fall.

"The road to the U.S. Senate goes through Virginia, and we feel an obligation to support George Allen," McDonnell told The Washington Examiner.

Allen also has made few appearances with Romney or his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, who have visited the state dozens of times this year, most recently on Wednesday. Allen chalked that up to scheduling.

"I'd love to be with them as much as I can," Allen said. "We're running as a team."

The little time Allen has publicly spent with his party's top officials is in stark contrast to Kaine, who has welcomed help from Democratic leaders.

Kaine has made multiple appearances with Sen. Mark Warner, the highest-ranking and most popular Democrat in the state. The two cut a commercial together. Kaine also speaks at rallies for President Obama and attended his party's national convention, while Allen skipped the Republican gathering.

McDonnell's standing with voters could boost Allen, who enters the homestretch unable to pull ahead of Kaine in the polls. McDonnell's job approval rating is at 52 percent, according to a recent CBS News/NYT/Quinnipiac University poll, with just 29 percent of Virginians giving him a negative grade. Allen and McDonnell last campaigned together before June's Republican primary.

Kaine has criticized anti-abortion legislation passed under McDonnell, but he does not speak ill of his popular successor, who he acknowledges "has the affection of a lot of Virginians." And, Kaine said, McDonnell could affect the outcome of the Senate race.

"I get along with Gov. McDonnell quite well. We have some similarities on some economic and governance-type issues," Kaine said. "He's been pretty vigorous, certainly, for Gov. Romney, [with] what he does on the campaign. I'm sure that will impact [the race]."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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