Kaine, for his part, makes clear that he opposes sequestration and the defense cuts associated with it. He has offered an alternative that would mix other spending cuts with higher taxes on those making above $500,000 a year.

His spokeswoman, Brandi Hoffine, said the issue shows a difference in the candidates' philosophies: Kaine was willing to accept an imperfect compromise to prevent the potential catastrophe of default, while Allen would have shunned compromise and risked default to pursue an all-or-nothing agenda.

"Business people know that a default would have had a very serious impact on the entire economy, including defense," Hoffine said.

In Loudoun County, an outer suburb of Washington and home to some tech companies and defense contractors, the issue of sequestration is not pervasive, said Tony Howard, president of the county's Chamber of Commerce.

"Inside the Beltway it dominates the conversation." Howard said. "Here, I don't think it's something that a lot of the rank-and-file business owners are focused on."

Business owners, Howard said, more generally see the sequestration dilemma as a broader symptom of the general dysfunction in Washington.

"A lot of the business people I talk to, they don't get it. They don't understand why compromise is a dirty word," he said. "In business, you have to compromise."

At a rally last week for GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in Chesapeake, Va., part of the Hampton Roads region that has a large military presence, the issue was important for some voters but not others.

"It's a big issue, not only because I work in the shipyard, because if the federal government is going to spend money, it should spend money to protect and defend the country," said Vitor Maruues, a retired Air Force maintenance officer and now an engineering analyst at Newport News Shipbuilding. "I'd rather have paid workers in the shipyard and other defense contractors that are scientists, engineers, metal cutters, pipe fitters, plumbers than provide for people on unemployment, on food stamps and on welfare."

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