BOB LEWIS - AP Political Writer
RICHMOND -- Former Sen. George Allen, trying to recapture the Senate seat he lost six years ago, enters Tuesday's Virginia primary as a strong favorite over three lesser-known Republicans.
Allen's opponents are tea party leader Jamie Radtke of Chesterfield, socially conservative state legislator Bob Marshall and Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson, all of whom are running to Allen's right on social issues and have portrayed Allen as a pliant member of a free-spending GOP-ruled Senate in his earlier term.
The winner faces Democratic former Gov. Tim Kaine, who was unopposed, in a race that could help determine Senate partisan control.
Six U.S. House nominations also will be decided, including long-shot nomination challenges to four incumbents. Congressmen with primary opponents are Democrat Jim Moran, Republican Reps. Randy Forbes, Bob Goodlatte, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Polls close statewide at 7 p.m.
As Allen toured the state over his campaign's final weekend alongside GOP luminaries including Gov. Bob McDonnell and Cantor, his rivals Radtke, Marshall and Jackson made their final pitches via e-mail, social media and in person to what they hope are silent, restive conservatives fed up with establishment politics.
Radtke and Jackson are making their first statewide runs for office. Marshall ran in 2008 for the seat of retiring Republican John W. Warner, but lost narrowly to former Gov. Jim Gilmore in that year's bitterly contested GOP convention. Gilmore lost in that year's Democratic landslide to centrist Mark R. Warner.
A Washington Post poll from last month showed that more than six out of 10 likely GOP primary voters favored Allen, who lost his 2006 Senate re-election to Democrat Jim Webb.
Allen in 2006 was not only considered a shoo-in for re-election, he was widely viewed as a strong GOP presidential contender two years later, and had visited early nomination battlegrounds Iowa and New Hampshire to check out his prospects.
But Allen's race against Webb, a former Republican Navy secretary under President Reagan and a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, disintegrated in a chaotic, gaffe-strewn and undisciplined campaign. It began at a campaign rally where Allen singled out an American-born Webb aide of Indian descent videotaping him from the crowd and twice addressed him by an obscure slur, "macaca."
Allen's comeback campaign, however, has been disciplined and regimented with a rigorous itinerary of personal appearances and cautious performances at three pre-primary debates organized by the state Republican Party, each time ignoring attacks from his GOP rivals and focusing his fire on Kaine as though the general election race already had begun.