Republican Sen. George Allen called for “changes in tactics” in how the U.S. is fighting the Iraq war on Friday as he continued to face questions about his morphing position on the war.
“The situation there is one that needs adjustments, that needs changes in tactics. We need to adapt to the situation on the ground,” Allen said at a campaign event Friday morning with GOP leaders of the state legislature.
Even so, Allen, whom polls show to be in a tight Senate race with Democratic candidate Jim Webb, has yet to reject or criticize the hard line on Iraq that he had touted for months and that President Bush repeated Thursday at an Allen fundraiser.
Allen and Webb appeared separately later Friday in Hampton at a forum of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where each signed up for lifetime membership.
Allen used the event to try to put behind him allegations that he has been insensitive to racial concerns, recounting efforts to provide money for historically black colleges and universities, as well as his trip to Selma, Ala., with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to honor the bloody civil rights march there 40 years ago.
Once regarded only as a warm-up race for a presumed 2008 Allen presidential bid, the race became competitive in August after Allen singled out a man of Indian descent before a mostly white crowd at a rally and called him “macaca,” which can be considered a racial slur.
Webb couched the coming election as “a choice between those who have power and those who will stand up to power.”
Webb has been a critic of the war since 2002, before the U.S.-led invasion, when he wrote that it would mire the United States in a bloody and protracted quagmire and destabilize the oil-rich region. He cited the war, in part, for his decision to leave the GOP. He was asked no questions about Iraq at the Friday event.
Allen began shifting his public position on the unpopular war two weeks ago after fellow Virginia Sen. John Warner, a five-term moderate and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, returned from an Iraq visit saying the war was “drifting sideways,” with Iraq’s fledgling government unable to disarm its deadly sectarian militias.
Allen continued to hedge his views on the war at the NAACP event.
“Progress in Iraq has not been sufficiently fast as far as I’m concerned,” Allen said. But he added, “to leave Iraq a safe haven for terrorists is not an acceptable risk.”
On Friday, Allen began televising a new ad in which John Warner says, “George and I stand for a safe and strong America.”
Even in conservative Virginia, polls show lagging support for the war. A recent Washington Post poll of 1,004 likely Virginia voters showed that 44 percent believed the war worth fighting considering its costs to the U.S., and 54 percent said it was not worth fighting.
But Allen won’t stiff-arm the president, who on Thursday raised an estimated $600,000 for him in a paid media campaign that is costing both sides well over $1 million a week in television time alone.
“I think the point of the matter we ought to take into consideration is the risk here, the risk facing our country, how we need to improve, how we need to adapt, how the Iraqi people have to stand up for their own sovereignty and control their own destiny,” Allen said Friday.
A Washington Post poll released Sunday showed Allen favored by 49 percent of voters surveyed last week, while Webb had 47 percent support. The results were within the poll’s margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press