Polls show the U.S. Senate race in Virginia has been locked in a neck-and-neck tie for months, as two well-known former governors duke it out. Both sides, although they're working hard, seem to be gaining little ground on the campaign trail.
She Chester was a pretty good-smelling campaign stop. The jewelry and gift store near Richmond is filled with scents of lavender and ginger, especially when Senate candidate George Allen stopped by last week. The Republican tested out lavender and eucalyptus home sprays on his wrist, to the chagrin of store owner Mary Schindel.
"No! You just spray it in the air," she said, correcting the former governor. Schindel was calm when the folksy former governor and former senator knocked over a set of earrings and dislodged a scarf, joking at each opportunity.
Schindel may have hosted a Republican in her shop that particular afternoon, but she calls no party her home.
"I can go either way," she said.
But this year, Schindel said, there's no question she's voting Republican in the presidential and Senate contests in this hotly-contested state. Her mind is already made up because of the bad economy, she said. The economy is George Allen's focus in this race, he told the small crowd at She Chester.
"I think government ought to be on the side of small businesses, of entrepreneurs," Allen said. "We ought to have a hassle-free government."
On the other side of the ticket is former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D). Allen is trying to paint Kaine as a rubber stamp for President Obama because he supported the Democrat's health care law and stimulus package. While Kaine gladly supports the president, he said there's distance between the two men.
"I've been very willing to disagree with the president on issues," he said. "I've been very willing to point out areas where I agree with Mitt Romney on things.
"George showed no independence when he was a senator," Kaine went on to say. "I've always shown independence throughout my career in local and state office."
Outside spending and the presidential contest are both factors in this pivotal Senate race. With the contest so close, both men plan to crisscross the state up until Election Day, often making their pitches one voter at a time.
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