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Democratic Sen. Robb may face tough re-election race

By Bruce Morton/CNN

February 15, 1999
Web posted at: 6:24 p.m. EST (2324 GMT)

RICHMOND, Virginia (February 15) -- Virginia Democratic Sen. Charles Robb enjoyed a Presidents' Day parade in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday. Parades are fun, of course, but Robb is headed for a war.

"Arguably, Chuck Robb is the most endangered incumbent Democrat in the country," says Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.

Robb
Sen. Chuck Robb may have a tough
re-election bid in 2000
 

That's because he may be running for re-election against George Allen, a very popular former governor barred by law from seeking a second term. Allen has formed an exploratory committee and is universally expected to seek Robb's Senate seat.

"I think that a lot of people, you know, whether it's from polls or people -- grassroots support -- I think that they're very ... supportive of the job I did," says Allen.

"I will probably be an underdog for the next 18 months, and then after Labor Day ... in the year 2000 people will start to focus on the race, and we'll start to debate the issues and we'll see where we go from there," Robb says.

Six years ago, Robb was in the fight of his life against conservative Republican and Iran-contra figure Oliver North and an independent candidate. He won with 46 percent of the vote. Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner wouldn't back North.

According to Allen, this time the Republicans are unified. "We have a lot of wings in our party, but they are all flapping in the same direction," Allen says.

Last time, Robb, like President Bill Clinton, had to fight accusations of sexual misbehavior. He was involved with Tai Collins, a former Miss Virginia. Also like Clinton, Robb admitted inappropriate behavior but denied an affair. This time?

Ken Plum, Virginia's state chairman for the Democratic party, predicted the issue will be discussed more as a "whisper kind of campaign." "But I believe the American people and the people of Virginia said, 'We've had enough of that,'" Plum said.

"We don't have time to talk about Robb's failures," said Randy Forbes, Virginia's Republican party chairman. "Again, we're going to emphasize George Allen's successes."

Republicans cite crime and welfare as areas where Allen made progress. And there's one thing more.

"When you travel around Virginia, one of the things that you see is that many of the people in Virginia just love George Allen, and we believe that's going to be the ticket to our success," Forbes says.

Democrats say he has been bad on the environment and education.

"The glamor, the glitter that comes with George Allen needs close examination," Plum says. "People will vote for Chuck Robb because Chuck Robb has served us with distinction; he's looked after the interests of Virginia."

This is a seat the Republicans want very much to win, the Democrats want very much to keep. The election is a long way off, but right now, it looks close.


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Monday, February 15, 1999

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