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Virginia Senate: how Tim Kaine survived a record barrage of attack ads

No candidate for the US Senate has ever had more money spent against him than Virginia's Tim Kaine. But he triumphed because he was seen as the more bipartisan choice, experts say.

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Tim Kaine, Democratic candidate for senator, gives his victory speech in Richmond, Va., Tuesday.

Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch/AP

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Tim Kaine triumphed over former GOP senator and governor George Allen Tuesday night despite having more money spent against him than any Senate candidate in history.

Since the race began last year, both Mr. Kaine – also a former governor – and Mr. Allen said they expected a contest that would be locked within the margin of error until the end. And that’s what they got, with polls showing the race closely divided until Kaine emerged victorious, winning by a margin of four percentage points.

That’s even though Kaine was targeted by more than $28 million in attacks by groups outside Allen’s campaign.

“There are going to be a lot of people on the other side who are going to have to regroup and figure out what went wrong,” said Mo Elleithee, a senior Kaine adviser, in a conference call during the campaign’s final week, “because Virginians just have not responded in the way that those groups had hoped they would.”

Kaine’s third-party allies weren’t asleep at the switch: Allen took some $18.6 million in abuse. Among Republicans, only Wisconsin Senate candidate Tommy Thompson (R) took more – $20.5 million. (He also lost, to Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin.)

But the amount spent against Kaine is closing in on double the Democratic runner-up in this category. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) of Ohio took $16.5 million in flak.

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