RICHMOND, Va. – Sen. George Allen welcomed fundraising help Thursday from a visit by President Bush even as the senator became more critical of maintaining the current U.S. approach in an increasingly violent Iraq.
His Democratic rival, Jim Webb, planned to join former President Clinton later Thursday evening for a fundraising event at the home of Democratic former Sen. Chuck Robb in McLean.
With polls showing little support for the war and poor numbers for Bush, even in Virginia, the president is nevertheless campaigning nationally for sustaining American troop strength in Iraq until its fledgling government can control the sectarian carnage that threatens to spread into a civil war.
The president was expected to join Allen in addressing supporters shortly before 6 p.m. at the Science Museum of Virginia.
Webb, who criticized the Iraq war in 2002, well before the 2003 invasion, has made the protracted conflict a focus of his campaign. He has cited the war, along with other Bush policies, for leaving the GOP. Six years ago, Webb not only endorsed Bush and Allen, he called Clinton's two terms "the most corrupt" in modern history.
At an afternoon campaign event in Richmond, Webb — a decorated Vietnam War veteran — said his previous criticism of Clinton was rooted in divisions over that war.
"I think 9-11 for me just changed all that," Webb told reporters, saying he decided it was time to look forward and leave debate over the merits of the Vietnam War to historians.
"I see this as a measure of reconciliation and understanding that we need to come together and bring this country forward on issues of national security, on issues of economic fairness. My standing with President Clinton hopefully will be interpreted that way," he said.
The fundraisers come as both campaigns approach the home stretch of the race and throttle up their media campaigns to well in excess of $1 million a week.
Allen on Thursday picked up the endorsement of the National Black Farmers Association and its president, John Boyd, who unsuccessfully ran for a Virginia congressional seat as a Democrat in 2000.
Boyd praised Allen for Senate legislation he introduced that would have provided an estimated 72,000 black farmers nationally an opportunity to have their discrimination claims heard in court.
The endorsement has added importance for Allen, who this fall has battled claims he used racist epithets in the 1970s and his use of an obscure ethnic slur against a man of Indian descent in August.
On Wednesday, Allen won the endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, even though he never served in the military and Webb was a highly decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam War.
Webb, meanwhile, picked up the endorsement Thursday of the Police Benevolent Association and of the Rev. Curtis Harris of Hopewell, a contemporary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights era and a national officer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.