Davis announced Thursday he will not run for retiring Virginia Sen. John Warner's seat.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Rep. Tom Davis said Thursday he will not run for the open Senate seat in Virginia next year.
The Republican congressman from Northern Virginia had been considering a bid to succeed his friend, retiring Sen. John Warner, who announced this summer that he would not run for re-election in 2008.
With Davis out, the race to succeed Warner appears to be a battle of two former Virginia governors, Democrat Mark Warner, no relation, and Republican Jim Gilmore.
Warner announced his intentions last month and has raised over a million dollars. He is still very popular with Virginia voters and early polling puts him ahead of Gilmore in a potential head to head match up. National Democrats are betting Warner can win back the Republican held seat and help the party expand its current slim 51 to 49 majority in the Senate.
Meanwhile, both Warner and Gilmore flirted with White House runs. Warner considered a presidential bid but eventually decided against it and Gilmore jumped into the race for the White House at the beginning of the year but dropped out in July after he failed to find traction among conservative voters.
The move by Davis ends the possibility of a bitter intra-party fight in Virginia. Gilmore is a conservative Republican from central Virginia. Davis is a moderate Republican from the northern part of the state. Davis, like the retiring Warner, often doesn’t see eye to eye with the conservative wing of his party.
Davis’s announcement follows a decision earlier this month by Virginia Republicans to nominate their Senate choice through a state convention next June rather than a primary vote. That move seems to make the anti-tax crusading Gilmore the favorite, since conservative activists dominate most Republican conventions in Virginia.
Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, tells CNN that he thinks Gilmore is in sync with Virgnia voters. But he dodged a question from CNN Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh on whether he’s planning on running for Warner’s seat, saying “I’ve learned you never say never in politics.”
The big question now concerning Davis is if he’ll run for re-election for his House seat next year. Davis’ spokesman told CNN that decision will have to “wait for another day.”
– CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Deirdre Walsh