In 2006, when Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), the son of a legendary Washington Redskins coach, lost what was seen as a safe election to Jim Webb, a little-known former Navy Secretary, many politicos wrote off the Republican's political career for dead. (A big part of the problem: Allen infamously called an Indian-American Webb staffer "macaca.") But six years later, Webb is retiring, and Allen is back, running neck-and-neck in the polls with popular former Gov. Tim Kaine (D). The two giants of Virginia politics are fighting one of the closest-watched contests in the country, and the result in Virginia could decide control of the Senate — and the White House.


Tim Kaine (D)
Former governor and Democratic National Committee head
Age: 54

George Allen (R)
Former U.S. senator and governor
Age: 60

Allen and Kaine are both reasonably popular and well-known in Virginia, and both have won statewide elections in the past. As in many close races this year, the Republican is trying to lash the Democrat to President Obama. In this case, that's a plausible line of attack since Kaine was Obama's DNC chairman from 2009 to 2011, but also arguably unrewarding, since Obama is pretty popular in Virginia and might well win the state. Among the specific aspects of the anti-Kaine attacks: Allen opposes ObamaCare and Obama's DREAM immigration order, and accuses Kaine of wanting to raise taxes and abandoning Virginia when he was both governor and DNC chief. Kaine is focusing on Allen's record in the Senate, blaming him for exploding the budget deficit and being hyper-partisan, and for backing an anti-abortion "Personhood" law. Kaine is also touting his own bipartisan accomplishments and commitment to protecting Medicare and Social Security.

Kaine: 49.0 percent
Allen: 44.3 percent
(See the full data here.)

The race was basically tied for more than a year, until September, when Kaine started pulling ahead. But "Kaine's fate is most likely tied to President Obama's at the top of the ticket," says Huffington Post Pollster, and its unclear yet if Kaine's numbers will come down in line with Obama's recent decline. One of the three big election forecasters (Larry Sabato) rates the race "Lean Democratic," while the other two (Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg) call it a tossup. The New York Times' Nate Silver rates it "Likely Democratic."

CASH ON HAND (as of Sept. 30):
Kaine: $1 million on hand; $14.9 million total
Allen: $2.6 million on hand; $11.6 million total


Tim Kaine: "Great Team"


George Allen: "Accountable"


More races at a glance:
Massachusetts Senate: Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren
Nebraska Senate: Deb Fischer vs. Bob Kerrey
North Dakota Senate: Rick Berg vs. Heidi Heitkamp
Connecticut Senate: Linda McMahon vs. Chris Murphy
Montana Senate: Jon Tester vs. Denny Rehberg

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.