Candidates in the tight race for Virginia's vacant U.S. Senate seat are taking opposing views on what to do about the looming threat of $1 trillion in budget cuts known as "sequestration." The cuts go into effect in January if Congress fails to make a deal to make the cuts themselves.
Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine are both trying to appeal to voters in Northern Virginia by speaking out against sequestration, but the candidates come at it from different directions.
Allen wants to close tax loopholes to fill the gap. Kaine wants to end the Bush tax cuts for those who make more than $500,000 a year.
"Whenever either of them is elected, and they actually do have to make hard choices about this," says University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Kyle Kondick. "That's when they open themselves up for trouble when they face the voters again."
That's where the difference between campaigning and governing could be perilous for the winner, Konkick adds.
"What if sequestration happens or what if there s a big budget deal reached in the next few years that cuts military spending and that includes closing some military operations in Virginia?" asks Kondick. "Whoever runs against that person later on is going to make an issue of that, obviously."
The political pitfalls of sequestration are obvious, says George Mason professor Frank Shafroth says, because they were designed that way.
"It was the intent of the drafters to create something so awful that everyone, whether they are liberal, conservative, Democratic or Republican, will oppose," says Shafroth. "And they will hate it so much that they will make sure it doesn't happen."
The down side is obvious, Shafroth says, but the solution is not.
"Neither candidate for the presidency has put out a plan that the Congressional Budget Office could look at and say this in fact would achieve the same amount of budget reduction as the sequester," says Shafroth.