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Analysis: Virginia Senate Candidates' Wives Hit The Trail Hard

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There's a lot of attention focused on Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen, the candidates running for U.S. Senator in Virginia this fall. But both candidates are getting a lot of help on the campaign trail from their wives. 

Allen's wife, Susan, and Kaine's wife, Anne Holton, are both former first ladies of Virginia and have kept busy schedules of solo campaign appearances across the Commonwealth. Shane Goldmacher, congressional correspondent for National Journal, wrote about this this week and noted that no other political "plus ones" have anywhere near the prominence that spouses in this race have. Goldmacher talks with WAMU's Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey to talk about what he found. Here are some highlights:

On Anne Holton: "It's her first time out on the campaign trail, because although Tim Kaine's run before, she was previously a judge, which she resigned after he became governor," Goldmacher says. "Her father was the governor of Virginia, Linwood Holton, so she literally grew up in the governor's mansion. She's been around politics her entire life, and she's a real asset to him on the trail. Tim Kaine told me she's his best asset." 

And Susan Allen: "Susa Allen is a politician's wife; it's pretty much as if Hollywood could dream one up," Goldmacher says. "She's very stylish, she really enjoys campaigning and she's kind of a perfect complement to George Allen. He's known as being a little gruff at time, he walks around in big cowboy boots; she has nice heels. He was a quarterback in high school and college; she was a cheerleader. 

On Susan Allen's campaign schedule: "They've said she's done more than 250 events alone — that's more than some candidates in some places," Goldmacher says. "Today she's doing 3 separate events: veterans' halls, business tours, lunches. She's everywhere." 

What difference the wives make on the trail: "Both sides clearly believe they can make a difference, because they've been putting them out there so so much," Goldmacher says. "This year they've taken on added importance because both sides see the key to this election as women voters, independents and people in the suburbs. They really feel that their wives are important to reach out to those constituencies."

Whether the campaigns are targeting the spouses of the other candidates at all: "Nobody's gone after each other's wives, that's for certain. Occasionally they will speak about their husband's opponent, but mostly they try to stay positive on their husbands," Goldmacher said. "They're both very comfortable on the trail. Anne Holton grew up around politics and has an entire lifetime network of political connections she can lean on all around the state. Susan Allen, similarly loves politics, and in the rare year that her husband hasn't been on the ballot, she's been involved too. She chaired the Virginia chapter of Women for McCain and Palin in 2008. 

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