By BOB LEWIS
Sen. George Allen attempted to steer his campaign away from accusations of racial insensitivity Monday night with a two-minute, statewide television ad touting the need to focus on "the real issues," such as support for U.S. troops in Iraq.
The embattled Republican bought air time in every television market just before prime time in an effort to save his political career since accusations he used ethnic slurs sent his re-election campaign into a tailspin six weeks ago.
The ad opens with Allen noting the campaign’s disastrous recent drift away from "the real issues you care about" and acknowledged that "some of this I’ve brought on myself."
"But the negative personal attacks and baseless allegations have also pulled us away from what you expect and deserve," he said.
With his wife, Susan, at his side and a Washington Redskins helmet and a portrait of his late namesake father and football coach behind them, Allen recounted signature events of his term as governor _ parole abolition, more stringent academic testing for Virginia students and welfare reform.
Later, he buttressed President Bush’s intent to keep U.S. troops indefinitely in Iraq until that country’s fledgling government can stanch sectarian bloodshed that threatens to plunge it into civil war.
"I want our troops to come home as soon as possible. And I want them to come home in victory, not defeat," he said.
Strategists for the former governor decided to take the dramatic step Saturday, a day after a statewide poll showed Allen and Democrat Jim Webb deadlocked at 43 percent each. As late as July, Webb trailed Allen by 16 percentage points.
On Aug. 11, he called a man of Indian descent "macaca," a comment some consider an ethnic slur. He also was accused by former fellow football players at the University of Virginia of having used a common racial epithet against black people.
Allen paid about $50,000 to simulcast the ad once just before 8 p.m. Allen wanted to do the ad live, but the costs and logistical arrangements would have been prohibitive, campaign advisers said. It was taped over the weekend.
Also on Monday, Webb began his biggest ad purchase yet, spending $650,000 a week to air a 30-second spot statewide that features two retired military women rebutting an ad Allen aired last week, said Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd.
Allen’s ads featured female U.S. Naval Academy graduates who said they suffered hostility and humiliation at Annapolis because of a 1979 magazine article Webb wrote that said women could not lead men in combat and decrying their admission to the academy.
© 2005 Associated Press