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Obama-Romney battle puts Senate race in Virginia in 'eye of the storm'

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Allen, who lost his Senate seat in 2006, turned up at a half-dozen polling places Tuesday, meeting with handfuls of voters dribbling in to cast their ballots under gray skies and drizzle across most of the Commonwealth. A rainy Tuesday in June doesn’t scream political season to many Virginians, many of whom have already gone through a presidential primary and city elections this year.

But when polls closed, Allen prevailed over tea party leader Jamie Radtke, anti-abortion warrior and state Delegate Bob Marshall, and Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson. Allen claimed more than 65 percent of the 255,000 votes cast. Ms. Radtke took 23 percent, followed by Mr. Marshall and Mr. Jackson at 6.7 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively.

With only 5.4 percent of registered voters turning up to cast their ballots, Tuesday’s sleepy primary did, however, eclipse the state’s last Senate primary in terms of voter participation. When now-Sen. Jim Webb (D) defeated attorney Harris Miller in 2006 with 53 percent of the more than 155,000 votes cast, only 3.4 percent of voters turned out.

But in November, with both President Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney already lavishing money and attention on Virginia, turnout will likely soar. That means Allen and Kaine will battle for a seat that could swing control of the Senate in the shadow of their presidential partners.

“I don’t think either Tim Kaine or George Allen has complete control,” says Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. “Their job is really to stay up in the wake of that really big ship, which is the presidential campaign, and whichever one masters water skiing on that large wake is likely to win.”

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