Senator George Allen leads his opponent Jim Webb by 48% to 45% in a News-7 poll conducted by SurveyUSA.
Since an identical SurveyUSA poll released June 28th, Allen has lost eight points and Webb has gained eight points. Allen's lead has shrunk from 19 points to three points. Interviewing for this poll began Friday, one week after Allen singled out a Webb campaign worker at an Allen rally and referred to him as "Macaca."
Allen has lost support across all demographic groups, but in particular, among younger voters, he has gone from Plus 23 to Minus 17, a swing of 40 points. In Southeastern VA, Allen has gone from a 2:1 lead to a tie, a 31-point swing.
Meanwhile, Brendan Miniter of the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com writes the toughest commentary on Allen that I have seen from a conservative. After recounting Allen's ugly racial history, Miniter writes:
These are not the actions of a politician who understands legitimate sensitivities over his state's racial history--a history that includes slavery, Jim Crow and, more recently, resisting integration of its public schools in the late 1950s. Nor are they the actions of a politician who is working fastidiously to overcome this history. Indeed, as governor, when leadership on race issues required political courage, Mr. Allen was noticeably absent from the fight...
A legacy of the South's long struggle with racism is that today its elected officials must take a stand on racially sensitive issues. What Mr. Allen is finding out is the same thing Trent Lott learned a few years ago: that Southern politicians who don't appreciate the sensitivity of race issues may pay a political price.
The Los Angeles Times wrote an even more harsh editorial titled "The Un-American Senator":
The best possible interpretation of Sen. George Allen's twice pointing at an Indian American videographer at a campaign rally and sneeringly calling him "macaca" is that, in the words of Allen's own spinmeisters, the Virginia Republican and putative 2008 presidential contender was just playfully combining the words "Mohawk" (to mischaracterize the cameraman's haircut) and, well, "caca." As an Allen staffer explained to the National Journal's Hotline blog, he was "an annoyance."
That's the best spin, mind you. The worst — and more believable — is that "macaca" is an Americanized version of the similarly pronounced French racial slur "macaque," which literally refers to a species of stub-tailed monkey, but is figuratively used to insult North Africans and other people with dark skin. It's the French equivalent of "darkie," making all decent people who hear it shudder. Allen's mother is French, from the North African country of Tunisia. He speaks the language well.
Here's what a smiling Allen said to his laughing supporters Aug. 11: "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great…. Let's give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." The object of Allen's ridicule was in fact born in the United States, but the senator's Confederate-tinted understanding of this country apparently has no room for people of color.
Allen grew up not in the "real world of Virginia," but on the tony Palos Verdes Peninsula. There, despite his French mother and Midwestern father (who coached the Rams), Allen developed a curious affectation for what he imagined to be the mores of the South. He began a lifelong embrace of Confederate symbology — lapel pins, bumper stickers and, until recently, flags — while exhibiting some worrying behavior toward African Americans.
According to a damning May profile in the New Republic, Allen once spray-painted something like "Burn, Baby, Burn" on his own high school just before the mostly black Morningside High basketball team from Inglewood came to play Palos Verdes High. Since taking public office, Allen has decorated his workspace with a noose hanging from a tree, opposed dedicating a federal holiday to Martin Luther King Jr., and now employed a vile slur to attack a political opponent.
There is no room for that kind of racism in American politics. We're not in the habit of telling Virginians how to vote, but an Allen defeat this November would send the right message to race-baiting politicians: Welcome to America. Now go home.
Will this controversy damage Allen's prospects as much as it seems? Futures market prices on an Allen win in 2006 and a 2008 GOP presidential nomination have only dipped by a few points since the "macaca" incident: