Updated: Thursday, 20 Sep 2012, 6:59 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 20 Sep 2012, 6:59 PM EDT
MCLEAN, Va. (WAVY) - The U.S. Senate race in Virginia is one of the most closely-watched, heavily-funded races in the country this fall.
Former Governor's Tim Kaine and George Allen squared off in the third of five debates Thursday and neither candidate made any serious stumbles.
The first major issue debated was the 47 percent comment from GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Romney said 47 percent is the electorate that will never vote for him because they are beholden to government handouts.
"The President starts off with 48 percent, 49 percent, he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax," Romney is heard saying in an undercover video during a fundraising event with exclusive, high-dollar donors.
The issue that took up the first seven minutes of the debate moderated by NBC's David Gregory.
Gregory pressed the issue that Romney thinks the 47% believe they are victims who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them. Tim Kaine asked whether the 47% should pay some federal income tax?
When asked if the "47 percent" should pay some federal income tax, Kaine responded:
"You can say something off the cuff," Kaine said. "I deeply disagree with the sentiment expressed by Governor Romney."
Clearly, this was not an answer to Gregory's question. Kaine went on to say:
"I don't meet Virginians who think they are victims, and the notion people don't take personal responsibility is condescending and divisive."
"Do you believe everyone in Virginia should pay something in federal income tax?" Gregory asked Kaine.
"Well, everyone pays taxes. I would be open for some plan that has a minimum federal tax for everyone," Kaine said.
"My opinion, the best social program is a job," Allen responded. "If they have a job then they are taking care of themselves and their families."
The average of the three polls Kaine has 50 percent to Allen's 43 percent. There is a also a clear gender gap in the race. Women favor Kaine by 14 points over Allen.
Allen was asked about the moment in 2006 when he referred to a campaign worker for his opponent using an ethnic slur. Allen's opponent, Jim Webb, went on to win the race.
"That was a mistake. I apologize for it. I should never have drawn that young man into the debate. He had a hard job following me around," Allen said in Thursday's debate.
Kaine did not let it go and went further, reminding Allen of what he called his divisive nature when Allen served as governor.
"George, you famously said when you were governor, you enjoyed knocking Democrats' 'soft white teeth down their whiny throats,' and you didn't say it with a smile either," Kaine said.
Allen seemed ready for the quotes from history, he had a few of his own referring to a newspaper article after Kaine was elected governor.
"If Tim Kaine is looking for a role model, George Allen's term was the most consequential in the 20th century, and this was citing our job in welfare reform, abolition of parole and job creations," Allen said.
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