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Posted at 1:25 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Exit Jim Webb; enter. . .Who?

By Lee Hockstader

Jim Webb's announcement that he's quitting the Senate after his term's finished in 2012 confirms his refreshing reputation as a maverick unwed to the perks of office. It also cues the handicappers thrilled at the prospect of a toss-up open seat in a solidly purple state.

The immediate speculation is that Webb's departure clears the way for former Gov. Tim Kaine (D), who's been solid but miscast as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to grab the party's nomination if he wants it.

Kaine's a perfectly plausible candidate -- whip-smart, fast on his feet, energetic and almost universally recognized by Virginians. Still, he'll have to contend with his lack of a signature achievement as governor (thanks largely to Republicans who blocked his transportation initiatives) and, potentially more damaging, his deep personal and political devotion to President Obama, who hand-picked him for the DNC post.

Remember, Kaine was among the first Democratic governors to back Obama for the party nomination, and the two remain tight. At this point, Kaine and Obama are so tightly joined at the hip that it's difficult to imagine one winning and the other losing Virginia next year. And the president has lost ground in the state since he beat John McCain there in 2008. If he runs for Senate, Kaine will not only be defending his record as governor; he'll also be defending Obama's in the White House more than virtually any incumbent save for Obama himself. That may be heavy baggage in Virginia.

Still, who could knock off Kaine should he seek the nomination?

The Democrats, whose winning streak in Virginia suddenly ran out of steam at the turn of the decade, have a surprisingly thin bench in the state. Conceivably, Terry McAuliffe, who failed to get the party nomination for governor in 2009, could mount a new campaign. So could, in theory, substantive but obscure figures like former state lawmaker and Transportation Secretary Whitt Clement, who's been floated lately as a possible 2013 gubernatorial candidate. Both would have a lot of ground to cover between here and plausibility.

Then there's George Allen, whom Webb beat -- strike that -- who beat himself in his race for reelection to the Senate in 2006. Allen will never live down his Macaca notoriety; I'll lay bets that it will feature in the lead -- probably the headline -- of most of his obituaries. But he retains some good will among Republicans who prefer to remember him as a conservative governor who notched some achievements in office than as a do-nothing senator whose swagger, arrogance and, many believe, oblique racism contributed to his party's loss of control of the U.S. Senate.

Allen would be tough to beat for the Republican nomination. But there are already rumblings that he will face opposition from a Tea Party candidate or others on the right, like nativist demagogue Corey Stewart, chairman of Prince William County's Board of Supervisors. My guess is that Kaine, by contrast, would have a relatively clear shot at the Democratic nomination. Now that would be something new: the Democrats linking hands while Republicans bloodied themselves in fratricidal battle.

By Lee Hockstader  | February 9, 2011; 1:25 PM ET
Categories:  Hockstader  | Tags:  Lee Hockstader  
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Comments

Not surprised at Webb's not running again. I just don't think he's interested in the job of Senator - it takes a special type. Also, I think the re-election campaign is going to be real hard & he may not be up for it. Kaine might run but he lacks charisma. How about Wilder? On the other side, I expect Tom Davis, not Allen.

Posted by: dclewis1 | February 9, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

So, why is Webb really resigning?

Is he going to run for President????

He is certainly not an Obama guy.

Posted by: donbl | February 9, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Lee:-) While we're speculating, I could see Webb actually resigning before his term is up to be the new SecDef when Gates leaves. Governor McDonnell could then appoint Allen to fill Webb's seat and then run as the incumbent against whoever the Dems can come up with in 2012...it wouldn't be Kaine (too much Obama baggage).

Posted by: DQuixote1 | February 9, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

All Webb wanted was to win the election. He did not want the low wages and hard work of being a US Senator.

Interesting that the Post is already waging a campaign for the "whip smart" Tim Kaine. I wait with baited breath to see their final endorsement...

Hopefully the "fast on his feet" Kaine will be as successful with his own campaign as he was in 2009 with the governors race, and later in 2010 with the congressional races. As the chosen one's chosen one, he will have an albatross around his neck from the git go.

Posted by: amazd | February 9, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

"All Webb wanted was to win the election. He did not want the low wages and hard work of being a US Senator."

Webb achieved more in his first two years in the Senate than Allen did in 6.

On one side you have a significant piece of legislation -- the new GI bill, which he was instrumental in drafting and helping to guide through Congress (a significant achievement especially for a freshman member of the Senate). On the other side you have his work with other members of the 2006 freshmen class in actually providing some oversight of spending and contracts in Iraq (something that the GOP neglected to do during its period in control of the Senate). Webb's also taken on a tough issue connected to the U.S. prison-industrial-complex -- an issue that isn't exactly popular, but which represents a huge drain on state and federal resources.

It's an interesting charge that Webb was some kind of part time Senator. You have a guy like Allen who held a grand total of three hearings while in charge of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on European Affairs in his 6 years heading the Committee. Somehow he was also able to find enough time to raise almost $20 million dollars during his years in the Senate (in part because he was positioning himself for a presidential run even as early as 2006). Webb has a grand total of $500K in his campaign warchest. Unlike a lot of politicians he spent most of his work dealing with legislation rather than simply schmoozing with lobbyists and asking for handouts from DC's biggest industry lobbies -- he also had a good attendance record (unlike Allen).

Posted by: JPRS | February 9, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

If the Tea Partyers run Corey Stewart against Allen for the GOP nom, it can only help rehabilitate Allen. After all, Stewart's the one guy who can make Allen's racism seem mild in comparison.

Posted by: outsider6 | February 9, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Very upsetting this news about Webb. He is a former Marine and Combat vet- so not a coward. But he is taking the easy way out here. We just got off 8 years of the worse administration of the last 100 years- we need Webb to help gird the Democratic Ship against the birthers, death panelist and other looney tunes who represent the Right. We cannot allow those people to inflict yet more damage. Webb made a selfish decision. I fear he has gone wobbly like Evan Bayh, Dorgan and the rest. Not a good time to retire gentlemen. Not with so many battles to fight. You have left my man Obama alone manning a machine gun all by his lonesome while hordes of crazed, misinformed lunatics who survive off Soc Sec and depend on medicare attempt to take the beach. Marines don't leave Marines behind to fight their battles. They fight alongside. Not good Mr. Webb.

Posted by: wbruzzowashpost | February 9, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Amazd,

a) If you are unappreciative of a mildly left-slant of the Post, then go read the Washington Times. Otherwise, stop complaining. You know what you're getting when you come on this site, you just sound petty.

b) Go to the top of the page. Just below the ads is "washingtonpost.com > Opinions > PostPartisan". Keyword is "OPINIONS" - this a blog/op-ed piece. It does not express the views of the entire paper. It's not like Fox News where opinion and the news are blended during news-time. This would be the equivalent of an opinion/pundit-based show. Understand the difference.

Posted by: SteadyState | February 9, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

One term is all he can take, he has wasted every one's time. He was piss and vinegar when he ran. Now he is running out. For shame!

Posted by: Billy1932 | February 9, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

All I know is that I have written Senator Webb's office frequently and asked specific questions. I have never and I mean never received a normal reply. I have always received a pre-written letter saying absolutely nothing!! One letter I received was 2 months past the bill being passed into law. I have called his office in Falls Church and no one answers; not even a message machine. As far as I am concerned he has been absolutely worthless. Let me ask one more question. If Virginians and the American people are totally against Abortion why was the Health Care Bill passed? If the Russians are going to cheat again on SALT why vote for it? I asked these kinds of questions and received thank you for writing me. I am glad to hear from you. What kind of replys are those?!

Posted by: pechins | February 9, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

SteadyState posted: a) If you are unappreciative of a mildly left-slant of the Post, then go read the Washington Times. Otherwise, stop complaining. You know what you're getting when you come on this site, you just sound petty.
_______________
Do you think I care one iota about how you might feel about my opinions? If you don't appreciate opposing points of view, go somewhere where only one point of view is permitted. Even the left leaning Post allows other opinions in the op-ed section, even if not in the news sections.

Posted by: amazd | February 9, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only person who's not surprised by this? I don't think Webb expected to win against Allen in the first place, and has simply been doing his duty during his term in office.

Posted by: stevefoerster | February 9, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Webb is a quitter, good for Virginia, he knows he will not win reelection in 2012 because he voted with Obama all the time. He only got elected because Allen got to cocky & dropped the macaca bomb. He was once a republican. He was Sec.Nav. for 9 months under Reagan then told to quit or be fired. He only ran to piss of the republicans. He's been nothing but a yes man for Harry Reid & Obama

Posted by: paramountgreenhouse | February 9, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

JPRS posted: "It's an interesting charge that Webb was some kind of part time Senator."
_______________________
Especially interesting since the charge was not made by me. Nothing I wrote even suggested that Webb was part time or ineffective.

At the same time, what evidence is there that Webb enjoyed the Senate. That he is quitting after only one term seems to suggest that he didn't.

As for any Presidential aspirations he might have, you must be joking. The guy has absolutely zero name recognition outside of Virginia, and probably would struggle to get re-elected even there.

Posted by: amazd | February 9, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I think that it might be a strong possibility about Sen.Webb considering SecDef position. I really feel that he would be good in that office and better than Rumsfeld or Cheney. I wish i was a VA voter becsuse I would certainly vote for him and talk him up !!! I certainly don't agree that he was wimpy or did nothing. Good luck, Sen. Webb.

Posted by: katydid3363 | February 9, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

"Then there's George Allen, whom Webb beat -- strike that -- who beat himself in his race for reelection to the Senate in 2006. Allen will never live down his Macaca notoriety;"
________________________
Many people think the Post's blatant and over the top hit job on George Allen was, itself, notorious. A perfect example of the failure to separate the news and opinion sections of a major US newspaper.

Most Americans had no notion of the word Macaca until the Post played it up as a racial slur.

Posted by: amazd | February 9, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Of course his six years of service now entitle him to over $10,000 a year for life. Not bad for six years of screwing up the country!

Posted by: Other | February 9, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm a bit surprised that nobody has mentioned Creigh Deeds in this consideration of possible Democratic candidates. His loss to McDonnell was, to be sure, not a squeaker. Still, he clobbered Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe in the primary. Moreover, he's in the centrist/conservative/DLC Democratic tradition which has been so successful in Virginia in recent decades: Webb and Warner are cases in point. It would be hard for the GOP to get to his right. Of course, I said that about McDonnell in 2009, but McDonnell succeeded not by trying to go to Deeds' right but by tying Deeds to the national Democratic Party and making Obama his running mate. Deeds ran against Bush and lost; McDonnell ran against Obama and won. He'd need a good campaign strategy, but he could give George Allen a race.

Posted by: vacohee | February 9, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Amazd says
"I wait with baited breath to see their final endorsement..."

Been sucking on minnows again, Amazd?

I think you mean "'bated breath", as in "abated," meaning you're holding your breath. Please keep that up until you hear - it will mean one less Republican voter.

Posted by: Pamsm | February 9, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

@vacohee Creigh Deeds has absolutely NO CHANCE of being nominated, much less winning. McDonnell may have been aided by anti-Obama sentiment but Deeds destroyed himself and the rest of the Democrats with his spectacularly incompetent post-primary campaign. Deeds took Northern Virginia for granted until it was too late and then made things even worse by going overboard on negative advertising.

Hell no on Deeds. I'm actually surprised Tom Perriello isn't mentioned in this article. He may have lost but considering that polls had him 20 points down, he put up a hell of a fight.

Posted by: Liebercreep | February 9, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Insider of both parties know that the Virginia GOP legislators vowed they would not allow Kaine to accomplish anything because they didn't want another Warner to contend with in Statewide races.
It goes without saying that the State of Virginia suffered through 4 years of GOP blockade including unconstitutional road funding schemes and the famous "Abuser Fees". Remember those? $3-5,000 fines for certain traffic tickets.
What did the GOP blockade reap? $3 Billion of borrowing is what the GOP got. GOP bunk is the long and short of it!

Posted by: tigman_2 | February 9, 2011 10:54 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the idea of Tom Perriello. It was a miracle he won in that district at all, and the closeness of his race compared to others--like the Boucher/Griffith race--makes the point again. This guy is a heck of a campaigner and would make a very sharp contrast with Allen. He's young, he's smart, he's principled, and has never called anyone Macaca.

So, he's got that going for him.

Posted by: willingham | February 10, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

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