RICHMOND (WWBT)- We're still 11 months away until Virginians pick their next U.S. Senator, but today, Tim Kaine and George Allen were in mid-season form.
The two political pros gave and took their share of attacks in this first debate of the 2012 campaign. The debate was probably not seen by too many people. So Kaine and Allen worked hard to position their opponents in a box that would resonate beyond a small room at the state capitol.
"The deficit has ballooned because of policies George Allen perused when he was a U.S. Senator," said Kaine.
Meanwhile, early on Allen tagged his opponent to the man in the White House.
"On every significant issue, Tim has sided with President Obama and not the people of Virginia," he said.
As expected, they stuck very closely to carefully prepared talking points. When forced to venture outside their comfort zones, Kaine didn't mince words when looking back on the macaca incident of 2006 which derailed Allen's reelection campaign.
"I don't know why he would say that," Kaine said, "But for whatever reason he said it is part of the divisive politics that we have to put behind us in this country."
Allen was quick to call out what he called Kaine's "mismanagement" of VDOT funds by pointing out a private audit conducted by Governor McDonnell that revealed more than $1 billion in funds that went unused.
He accused Kaine of putting his priorities in the wrong places.
"When he was chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the most partisan job in America," said Allen. "He was obviously not looking squeeze that money out or see what was in those accounts."
David Catanese is following the race from a national perspective for Politico.
"Tim Kaine can't separate himself from the president," he said.
Catanese believes Allen will work the entire race to tie Kaine back to Obama, while Kaine will push Allen back in time.
"In this debate, Tim Kaine tried to make George Allen the incumbent," he said.
Battle lines drawn, in a campaign that is only just beginning.
Kaine and Allen may be the front runners, but there are several other candidates hoping for the nominations in both parties. Representatives from the tea party staged a protest outside of the debate, because of the lesser known candidates that were not included.
More from those candidates and extended clips from the debate can be found on DecisionVirginia.com.