[Disclosure: the writer of this column is not paid. However, he has been working as a volunteer for the Webb campaign]
Today, I watched Jim Webb and George Allen debate before the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
I pulled in to the McLean Hilton parking lot at 11:30 a.m., just in time to see the demonstrators outside protesting Webb’s 1979 comments about women in the military. Protestors? Paid staff?
The debate itself was somewhat muted. The biggest fireworks came from Peggy Fox’s inane question about whether Allen had a Jewish grandmother. Hunh?
Otherwise, Allen seemed to be stressing his Virginia progressive props (which must be killing him). He stayed away from conservative red meat. He made no comments linking himself to the Bush administration. He even tried to state that his Iraq policies and Webb’s were not that different.
Jim Webb started a little slowly. A couple times, he used his speaking time to go back and answer old questions, not a good tactic. He also did not really research his audience. For example, he spoke in favor of trade unions and the minimum wage before a suit-wearing Fairfax business audience — I love that by the way.
But, for better or worse, he was his unscripted self. He did not pander. I mean how many Democratic candidates in Northern Virginia admit to having a concealed weapon permit?
Hard to say how this debate will be spun. The candidates are now becoming defined before the electorate. The overriding issue is Iraq. And that’s not good news for George Allen.