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Posted at 4:32 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Jim Webb's exit has GOP hopefuls salivating

By Mike DeBonis

Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) is not running for re-election. And his potential Republican opponents are salivating.

"Obviously it makes it a lot more likely that a Republican will be elected because the Democrats don't have much of a base," said Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, who is considering a run but has not officially entered the race.

Stewart pooh-poohed former Gov. Tim Kaine's chances, should the Democratic National Committee chairman decide to enter the race.

"Frankly I don't think he's going to be all that competitive," Stewart said , while giving props to the now-outgoing senator: "Jim Webb clearly would have been difficult to beat as the incumbent," he said, adding that he "really liked" Webb on a personal level, calling him an "intriguing guy."

As for whether Webb's departure would prompt his own run, Stewart said he was focused on winning another term as board chairman later this year: "If I don't win by a comfortable margin, it's not going to speak well of me."

That didn't stop him, however, from touting his electoral bona fides: "I will be the only person in the race actually leading a large jurisdiction," he said. "The challenge for all statewide Republican candidates over the past 10 years has been to run and do well in Northern Virginia. I clearly have done that. ... My electability would be higher than any of the other potential Republican candidates."

Meanwhile, tea party leader Jamie Radtke, a declared candidate for the seat, released a statement calling Webb's departure "a great opportunity to change the direction of our country by presenting Virginia with a clear choice for their next Senator."

"Virginians can choose between a new generation of principled conservative leadership or a return to a thirty-year politician who helped put America in our current mess," she said, referring to former Sen. George Allen (R). The statement included a litany of alleged betrayals of the tea party agenda, such as that Allen "voted for spending measures that increased our national debt by $3.1 trillion and voted for $90 billion in earmarks."

"George Allen was part of the Washington establishment, and he still is," she said.

As for Allen, he has released a statement of his own, complimentary toward Webb: "I respect Senator Webb's service to our country and the very personal decision that he and his family have made. ... My campaign will continue to focus on achievable reforms that will help reinvigorate our economy, end reckless, runaway spending, and unleash our plentiful energy resources."

By Mike DeBonis  | February 9, 2011; 4:32 PM ET
Categories:  Virginia  
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