The Tipping Point Races: Webb v. Allen

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Webb is running against Republican Senator Mike Allen in the state of Virginia.

Virginia: George Allen (R) v. Jim Webb (D)

Back in June, when former Secretary of the Navy and Republican-turned-Democrat Jim Webb won his party's nomination to take on Virginia Senator George Allen, it seemed he had no chance to win. Webb, who had never run for office before and had almost no money, was taking on a popular, well-funded incumbent in Allen, who had already been elected as both governor and senator in the state. Allen was in fact starting to prepare for a run for the G.O.P. presidential nomination in 2008.

But then Allen, at a campaign rally in August, referred to a South Asian supporter of Webb's as "macaca," a term considered by many to be a racial slur. That helped lead to accusations that Allen had used racial slurs to describe blacks in the 1970's and put his campaign in a downward spiral that eventually put the race into a dead heat. It's been a bizarre campaign: Allen learned in the midst of it that his mother was Jewish, while Webb has become dogged by accusations that's he's a sexist, brought on by a 1979 article in which he called the Naval Academy's co-ed dorms a "horny woman's dream." Democrats have suggested, without any evidence, that Allen may have been arrested for domestic violence in the 1970's, while Republicans have attacked Webb for sexual scenes in his novels. These character attacks and odd controversies have detracted from the biggest difference between the two candidates on the issues, namely that Webb has long opposed the Iraq War, which Allen voted for in the Senate.

NEXT: Shays (R) v. Farrell (D)