When Virginia voters go to the polls in November, their choice between incumbent Senator George Allen and former Secretary of the Navy James Webb could send shock waves through Congress and the White House.
For the first time since the Vietnam era, an unpopular conflict is threatening to alter the balance of power in Washington in a midterm election. Rising voter anger fed by opposition to the war in Iraq is prompting political analysts to forecast significant Democratic gains.
Antiwar sentiment has already led Democrats in Connecticut to spurn incumbent Senator Joseph I. Lieberman. And if the winds of change reach gale force by early November, Republicans could lose their majority in Congress.
One of the contests that will be most closely watched, particularly if anti-Republican sentiment grows, is the match between incumbent Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia and Democratic challenger James Webb, who served as Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan.
The Iraq Issue
The candidates come at the Iraq issue from diametrically opposing stances, and their race is likely to be viewed as a referendum on the war.