Virginia Sen. Battles For Political Life

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) speaks after voting results showed a very close race November 7, 2006 in Richmond, Virginia, left. Senate candidate Jim Webb, D-Va., gestures during remarks at an election night event on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006 in Vienna, Va.
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Sen. George Allen's political career hung by a thread Wednesday, after Democrat Jim Webb claimed victory — though about 8,000 votes separated the two and a recount was virtually certain.

"The votes are in and we won," Webb said. However, votes were still being counted. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Webb had 1,170,766 votes, or 49.6 percent, to Allen's 1,162,719, or 49.3 percent.

There are still absentees out that must be counted, reports Kathy Frankovic, CBS News Director of Surveys. A recount can be requested if the difference between the candidate is less than 1 percent.

A recount could not begin until after the State Board of Elections certifies the results Nov. 27; the losing candidate has 10 days after that to request a recount.

Republicans and Democrats both dispatched lawyers to Virginia to tally uncounted absentee ballots Wednesday, as well as canvass votes counted on Election Day.

A former governor once popular for abolishing parole, Allen had once been expected to cruise to a second term this year as a warmup for a presumed 2008 presidential run.

His solid conservative credentials and his sunny persona invited comparisons with the archetypal Republican, Ronald Reagan. In late July, Allen led Webb by 16 points in the year's first independent statewide poll.

Then came Aug. 11, the day Allen pointed out S.R. Sidarth, a 20-year-old Virginia-born man of Indian descent working as a Webb campaign volunteer, and introduced him at an all-white rally as "macaca," an obscure racial slur that denotes a genus of monkeys.

Sidarth was tracking Allen across the state, videotaping his public appearances, and his video of Allen's macaca moment became a major national story and was grist for comedians and cable talk shows.

Allen eventually apologized to Sidarth, but not until the comment had already provoked widespread scorn. By then, the political damage was done, and more was to come.

In mid-September, Allen bristled at a reporter for "making aspersions" about his religion when he was asked at a debate whether his mother was Jewish. The next day, Allen, 54, who was raised Christian, confirmed that his maternal grandparents were Jews, but said his mother revealed the secret to him only in August.

Then came allegations from some former football teammates from the University of Virginia that Allen had commonly used a six-letter epithet against black people. Allen denied ever using the word, and other teammates came forward to rebut the claims.

As Webb tied Allen to President Bush and the deadly U.S. occupation of Iraq, Allen battled back. He accused Webb of denigrating women in a 1979 magazine article decrying admission of women to the Naval Academy. Allen later tried to portray sexual descriptions in Webb's six best-selling war novels as demeaning to women.

Webb, a Naval Academy graduate and decorated Vietnam veteran who served as Navy secretary under Reagan, bitterly opposed the war in Iraq and switched to the Democratic Party.

There are no automatic recounts in Virginia, but state law allows a candidate who finishes within a half-percentage point to request a recount paid for by state and local governments.