Virginia Senate Race

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One of Virginia's best-known political analysts says that he never personally heard Senator George Allen use racial epithets.

But Larry Sabato insists that that claims by former Allen football teammates and acquaintances are valid.

Sabato is the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. He said in an e-mail to The Associated Press yesterday that he didn't personally hear Allen say the n-word.

Sabato went on to say that his conclusion is based on quote a "very credible testimony."

Sabato was a classmate of Allen's at the University of Virginia in the early 1970s. Monday, he said on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" that he knew Allen had used racial slurs, but declined to say whether he had witnessed them.

Allen is a Republican running for a second U.S. Senate term and has been mentioned as a presidential contender. His campaign said Monday that Sabato's claim was inaccurate. Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams says the campaign is obviously glad that Sabato clarified his comments.

Democratic Senate challenger Jim Webb is declining to say definitively whether he has ever used a common derogatory term to describe blacks.

Webb is stepping carefully after watching his campaign rival confront charges of racism. He told reporters yesterday that he doesn't think there's anyone who grew up around the South that hasn't had the word pass through their lips at one time or another in their life.

Webb referred to one of his novels that includes occurrences of the n-word as part of character dialogue. But his campaign says Webb never used the word in his general vocabulary or in any derogatory way.

Webb campaigned yesterday with John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate and a potential White House contender in 2008.

Webb fielded questions on the issue after two days of racially charged controversy surrounding Republican Senator George Allen.

A college teammate of Allen stirred controversy this week when he said that a generation ago, Allen frequently used the n-word when referring to blacks and that he put a severed deer head in the mailbox of a black household. Allen calls the assertions ludicrously false.