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Posted at 7:12 AM ET, 01/24/2011

Can George Allen exorcise the ghosts of 2006?

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake

Former Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) will re-emerge on the national political stage today, taking the first formal steps to challenge Sen. Jim Webb (D) in 2012.

Allen will make his plans known in an email to supporters and then will release a web video -- produced by media consultant Scott Howell -- explaining his plans. Allen will also file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission today establishing a campaign committee that will allow him to raise money for the bid.

Allen's senior advisors are, by and large, the same people he has relied on for much of his political career.

John McLaughlin will be the campaign's pollster, and Abbey Farris (of Richmond-based Benedetti and Farris) will oversee the fundraising. Dan Allen, who served as communications director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2004 cycle when George Allen was chairman of the committee, will serve as an adviser. Dan Allen's firm -- Scott Howell & Co. -- will be the media consultant. (The one notable absence is Dick Wadhams, who managed Allen's 2006 bid and is now the chairman of the Colorado Republican party.)

The central challenge for that group of advisers is to avoid the same pitfalls that turned Allen from a front-running presidential candidate to a former senator in the space of six months time.

While his utterance of the now infamous term "macaca" is what most people remember about Allen's 2006 campaign against Webb -- and rightly so -- his inability to immediately understand the damage done by the comment or quickly (and effectively) shut it down as an issue spoke to a broader hubris that had infected the incumbent.

Allen, put simply, began to believe his own press. He was on a glide path to reelection -- Webb was unable to raise any significant money before "macaca" -- and was prepping for a 2008 presidential bid, evidenced by the presence of Wadhams who was, at that time, regarded as the hottest GOP operative in the country.

Already, Republicans allied with Allen are insisting he has learned the lessons of 2006. "He is taking nothing for granted," said one Virginia Republican supportive of Allen, noting that the early announcement will allow the former senator to build a statewide grassroots organization that he lacked in 2006.

Allen's committed to doing things differently -- and better -- in a primary fight. Jamie Radtke, head of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation, is already in the race and running to Allen's ideological right. Among the other Republicans mentioned are Prince William Board of County Supervisors head Corey Stewart and state Del. Robert Marshall.

Webb has yet to announce whether he will seek a second term. If he decides against the race, Democrats may find themselves scrambling for a candidate, since Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine has said he isn't interested in a bid.

Romney wins N.H. GOP straw poll: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ran away with an early straw poll -- sponsored by WMUR and ABC -- at the New Hampshire Republican Party's annual meeting.

Romney led a giant field of potential candidates with 35 percent of the vote. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) came in second with 11 percent, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty was third at 8 percent and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin was fourth with 7 percent.

The straw poll means next to nothing: it was conducted among 273 party activists and was done before any candidates are actually in the race -- not to mention more than a year before the state is set to hold its first-in-the-nation primary.

But there are a few takeaways:

* Romney remains a heavy early favorite in New Hampshire, where he finished second in 2008, and there's not a clear alternative for the state's voters right now.

* Pawlenty, despite being in the single digits, came away with a surprisingly strong performance, finishing ahead of Palin and a couple Northeasterners in former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Among all the potential presidential candidates with low name recognition, Pawlenty was the clear leader with party activists.

* New Hampshire is not Palin country ... or Huckabee country. Neither Palin nor the former Arkansas governor did very well in the straw poll -- a result that echoes some early polling done in the Granite State. The two of them are most likely to focus their time in the early states on Iowa and South Carolina where the social conservative vote is more dominant if they decide to run.

DGA fills out staff: The Democratic Governors Association has rounded out it's staff, and it's set to announce a new political director, finance director and communications director today.

Dan Sena will take over as political director. Sena, a former deputy political director at the DGA, most recently worked with Patriot Majority to help reelect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Before that, he worked for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

Roshan Patel will be the committee's finance director. He comes from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, where he was mid-Atlantic finance director. Patel, like Sena, has also worked for Richardson and Udall in recent years.

And the committee's new chief spokeswoman, which has previously been reported by Politico, will be Lis Smith. Smith handled press over the last two years for former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and Virginia Democratic governor candidate Terry McAuliffe.

The trio will serve under the DGA's new chairman, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, and his executive director, Colm O'Comartun.

"Democratic governors' resurgence could not be in better hands," O'Malley said.

Fixbits

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promises to push for a vote on a repeal of the health care bill in the Senate.

Former secretary of state Colin Powell said there is no guarantee that he'll support President Obama again in 2012, but also that he hasn't seen anybody on the Republican side whom he's ready to support.

A Christie adviser said the governor turned down the chance to rebut Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday. (And on a related note, be sure to check out the Post's State of the Union page.)

Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, fresh off finishing second in the Republican National Committee chairman's race, said he is weighing a challenge to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in 2012.

Gingrich has reportedly been telling people in Georgia that he intends to run for president.

Also, if you haven't, be sure to check out our new Fix Weekly Face-offs. Today at 11 a.m., The Fix himself will weigh in on your hypothetical matchups!

Must-reads

"Democrats Look to Past to Chart Future" -- Kathleen Hunter and Jessica Brady, CQ-Roll Call

"Seven reasons why the GOP faces an uphill battle to defeat Obama" -- Bob Cusack, The Hill

"Huckabee Explains Why He's Waiting to Decide 2012 Run" -- Christian Post

"Tensions rise between Supreme Court, politicians" -- Joan Biskupic, USA Today

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake  | January 24, 2011; 7:12 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: Fast Fix: Where have all the 2012 presidential candidates gone? (VIDEO)

 
 
 
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