Virginia's U.S. Senate candidates debate in Richmond

A lively first debate took place Saturday between two former Virginia governors vying for one Senate seat.

Tim Kaine and George Allen met in Richmond, and the candidates didn't hold back.

After smiles and a brief handshake, the gloves quickly came off as the two squared off, with Allen first criticizing Kaine's performance as governor.

"Tim as governor tried to raise taxes of $4 billion,...including on people earning as little as $17,000 dollars a year," Allen said.

Kaine then went after Allen's record in the U.S. Senate.

"You talk like a fiscal conservative...but you never governed like one...and you may say you're going to do it if you get a third chance...but we can't afford to take that chance," Kaine countered.

The debate was held in an upscale resort in Hot Springs before an audience of lawyers from the Virginia Bar Association and is likely a preview of coming attractions over the next several month for the race.

Kaine spent part of the debate fighting Allen's attempt to tie him to President Barack Obama and accused his opponent of using so-called "smash-mouth" politics.

Kaine added, "He's got a billboard up that says Tim Kaine...Obama's Senator not Virginia' if I'm not a real Virginian, because I support the President of the United States...That's yesterday's politics."

Not backing down, Allen went after Kaine for heading up the Democratic National Committee while he was still governor.{ }

"Do you regret putting the partisan agenda ahead of your responsibilities to the people of Virginia as Governor?," Allen asked.

Kaine answered, "George, I'm not a hard partisan and I've never been. You can serve with honor in a party role..."

More of the same can be expected in future debates. Kaine is asking for eight, but the two campaigns have not settled on a number.

Right now, polls put the two men in a dead heat.