By Justin Sink
Facing off in what might be the hardest-fought U.S. Senate race this cycle, former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) and former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) debated Saturday afternoon in Hot Springs, Va.
Each candidate sought to depict themselves as bipartisan, while undermining their opponent's fiscal record.
Kaine accused Allen of "smash-mouth politics" and said the former senator oversaw massive increases in federal spending during his time in Washington.
Allen, meanwhile, looked to paint Kaine's time as head of the Democratic National Committee as a liability, calling the position "the most partisan job in the country." Allen also accused his Democratic challenger of being in the pocket of President Obama, noting he had been "hand picked" for the DNC job.
Kaine battled back, calling the remark "completely out of line" and detailing instances where he broke from the president. The Democrat also knocked Allen for campaign advertisements that called him "the president's senator," angrily saying the ad insinuated "somehow I'm not a real Virginian because I support the president of the United States."
Later in the debate, Kaine criticized Allen for refusing to back the August 2011 debt-ceiling compromise, pointing to prominent Virginia Republicans - including House Minority Leader Eric Cantor - who supported the bill.
Allen defended his stance, pointing to the possibility some $500 billion in automatic cuts could hit the Pentagon's budget if Congress doesn't act.
"National defense should never be used as a bargaining tool to raise taxes," Allen said.
The pair are fighting to replace retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) Every poll of the state released in the month of July has shown the two candidates within the margin of error, foreshadowing a likely down-to-the-wire finish.