The Conservative Case Against George Allen

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator George Allen appears to be the odds-on favorite to re-take his old U.S. Senate seat, being vacated by the retiring Sen. Jim Webb.

And while liberals are sure to remind voters of Allen’s “macaca” gaffe, Allen will likely encounter different attacks from the right as he seeks the GOP nomination.

Just being perceived as a “politician” can be a turnoff to some GOP primary voters, and when I interviewed Allen recently, he pushed back hard against the notion that he was “establishment.”  (Having chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), it would be hard to describe Allen as anti-establishment.)

But if Allen’s perceived insider status is problematic, his Bush-era voting record could make him vulnerable — not just stylistically — but substantively — to attacks from the right.

Consider an issue that is now front and center:  While in the Senate, Allen voted to raise the debt ceiling four times.  (This was not nearly as much of a hot-button issue when Allen cast his votes, but will that matter to voters?)

What is more, while serving in the U.S. Senate, Allen voted for tens of thousands of earmarks, totaling billions of dollars. In 2006, he boasted, “Every single earmark I’ve gotten, I’m proud of.”  (Note: In a November 2010 blog post, Allen called for Republicans to “stop earmarks altogether until the overall budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.”)

Allen also supported other Bush-era big spending bills, including No Child Left Behind (he now says he regrets it) and Medicare Part D.  He has also voted for ethanol, sugar, and farm subsidies.

On the social front, in 2004, Allen voted to add “Sexual Orientation” to Federal Hate Crimes Legislation. For this, the Family Policy Network labeled him a “conservative fraud.”

Again, Allen is still the clear favorite, but an examination of his voting record leads me to believe he could be vulnerable.  Whether or not this is fatal may largely depend on whether the 2010 Tea Party zeitgeist sticks around for 2012 — and whether or not any of his opponents can raise enough money to tell the story.