On Sunday, September 17th George Allen and Jim Webb showed up on Meet the Press.  Allen had a strong showing and Mr. Webb certainly did better than his previous debate.  In the end I think George Allen might have won back a point or two from his recently plummeting poll results which will be welcome news to the GOP.  In the end however, I think he also showed himself to be an injured horse for his eventual White House run.

Mr. Webb’s first sucker punch, delivered not by George Allen, but Tim Russert came with Webb’s first question:

MR. RUSSERT: Let me go back, Mr. Webb, to November of 2000. Here you are, standing with George Allen, endorsing him for the United States Senate, saying this: You endorse George Allen, “Webb said he believes Allen would be a better representative in the Senate on national security issues.” How can you endorse someone and then run against him?

MR. WEBB: I—for two reasons. First of all, I had thought George Allen would be bringing better leadership to the United States Senate, and I have not seen that kind of leadership, particularly in the area of national security, where we have become so vulnerable as a nation. The second is that if you look at what’s happened to the Republican Party over this period, they’re—I’m like a lot of people in this country who affiliated with the Republican Party based on national security issues toward the end of the Vietnam War, were never particularly comfortable with them, particularly on economic issues…

The candidates also sparred over their stances in the Iraq war.  Webb supported his stance that Iraq was a mistake, “This was not a war of necessity at the time…There was no urgency to go into this war at the time that we went into it. And if we had the right people in the Senate, there would have been more questions asked and a better policy in place in order to defeat international terrorism.”

Allen attempted to paint Webb as weak on defense in general, “Jim was opposed not only to the military action now to get rid of—and recently, but he—if it were up to him, Saddam Hussein would not only be in his palaces in Iraq now, he would actually be in Kuwait, because he was opposed to military action back in 1991.”

Tim Russert exposed both candidates as having significant “scandals” that are making their respective supporters cringe.  George Allen’s “macaca” comment was raised again.  This is the scandal that will likely follow Mr. Allen even after the election and may prevent him from being a true contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Likewise, Mr. Webb’s historical bias against women in the military might doom his chances as a Democratic candidate:

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Webb, an issue that has now been raised in this campaign, an article you wrote in 1979. Here’s the headline: “Women Can’t Fight.” And you write: “No benefit can come to anyone from women serving in combat. … Their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation. By attempting to sexually sterilize the Naval Academy environment in the name of equality, this country has sterilized the whole process of combat leadership training, and our military forces are doomed to suffer the consequences….I have never met a woman, including the dozens of female midshipmen I encountered during my recent semester as a professor at the Naval Academy, whom I would trust to provide those men with combat leadership.”

Allen might get a small bump for a good showing, but the long term implications of this tight race are far from over for the junior senator from Virginia.

Update:  The real difference between George Allen and Jim Webb, as they appeared on their debate with Meet the Press (courtesy of NYTimes.com):