Analysis: Webb retirement a mixed blessing for Virginia Democrats
February 9th, 2011
01:11 PM ET
10 years ago

Analysis: Webb retirement a mixed blessing for Virginia Democrats

Washington (CNN) - Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's announcement Wednesday that he will not seek re-election did not come as a major surprise to state Democratic insiders who always understood the former Navy Secretary to be something of a lone wolf, content to keep his political ruminations to himself.

And given that Webb sometimes seemed to radiate disdain for the political process, the reality is that Democrats might have a better shot at keeping the seat with someone else on the ticket.

Webb notoriously bristled at the demands of campaigning and was never a strong fundraiser. When he narrowly beat former Sen. George Allen in 2006, a Democratic wave year fueled by anti-war netroots sentiment, a good chunk of his campaign cash came in the form of low-dollar out-of-state contributions.

During the final three months of last year, when other 2012 Senate candidates were busy ramping up their fundraising operations, Webb collected just $12,000.

One Virginia Democratic strategist assessed the race without Webb this way: "It cuts both ways. Certainly you want an incumbent to run. His numbers are solid, initial polls show it to be a competitive race with Allen, and we don't have the deepest of benches. But having said that, he may not have been our best candidate. He is not a good candidate, he hasn't raised any money, and he barely got across the finish line in a good Democratic year."

Allen is mounting a political comeback and is considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2012, but he faces a primary challenge on the right from Tea Party activist Jamie Radtke, who has proven she can raise money.

So who will Democrats find to replace Webb? The biggest name being floated is that of Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, the former governor of Virginia and confidante of President Obama.

Kaine, though, has shown no indications of wanting the job, and Democrats say that only an intense lobbying effort by the president could get him in the race. Either way, Kaine will have to make a decision sometime in the very near future in order to ramp up a robust campaign operation or get out of the way for another candidate.

Former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, a resident of McLean, has also been asked about the Webb seat, but the former Virginia gubernatorial candidate has done his best to tamp down that talk. All signs suggest that McAuliffe has his eyes on the governor's mansion in 2013.

Two former House members, though, appear very serious about the seat, according to conversations with various Virginia Democrats: former Reps. Tom Perriello and Glenn Nye.

Both hail from conservative districts and were elected on the coattails of Barack Obama in 2008, only to be swept out of office two years later in a Republican tsunami.

Whoever decides to run would be smart to begin organizing in the next few days. Virginia's annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner, a big Democratic pep rally and the state party's biggest fundraiser of the year, is in Richmond on Feb. 19.

The event could serve as a coming out party for the person who will be sharing a ticket with Obama in 2012, in a state the White House desperately wants to keep in its column.

Filed under: Democrats • Jim Webb • Virginia
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. ReFascisticans

    Rep. Bobby Scott is the ideal candidate.

    February 9, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. Virginia

    I'm glad he's talking retirement. Being the wife of a vietnam era vet, I was appalled to read his comments concerning compensation for those with multiple health issues due to agent orange exposure. I don't believe he bothered to really study all the information regarding the effects of exposure of that toxic chemical. That being the case, how can we trust him in making other decisions concerning the welfare of Virginia citizens?!?? Good riddance.

    February 9, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  3. Luke Brown

    George Allen = snooze. Campaign slogan: "Throw the rascals in." Macaca to you too.

    If Dems want to win, they need a big name.

    February 9, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Democrats don't eat their own and we won't start now. We thank Webb for all he has done for our country and the Democrat party.

    February 9, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  5. Boone

    Lone Wof?? Please he did not depart from Dingy Harry's voting much if ever. Webb no longer represents a majority of VA and was going to lose so he conceded.

    February 9, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  6. T'sah from Virginia

    We will gather and become ONE to keep out Macaca!!!!!!

    February 9, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  7. Sue

    Good luck Dems trying to fight to keep this are going to need it. Remember, Obama campaigned numerous times before the last elections in Virginia, and it did not do any good. This seat is going to go to the Republicans.

    February 9, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. Protect and Defend Freedom of Speech in the USA

    Obama will have no "coat tails" in 2012 for whoever runs. An outsider that can claim they weren't responsible for the Democrat mess in DC would be the best candidate. Anybody that has supported Obama in the past might as well not even try running.

    February 9, 2011 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. Root and stem

    No CNN, despite your fondest wish for "mixed" blessing, it is really an absolute disaster for CNN and the Dems.

    February 9, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  10. Sgt Schultz

    What a waste. Just ONE term?! But yeah he was not very consistent with his views and probably the Dem's will be better off finding someone else more committed.

    February 9, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  11. Rickster

    lol...nice try on the spin. Webb was one of the rising stars in the democrat party..........until Obama came along. Now Webb is just one more casualty of the failed Obama presidency.

    February 9, 2011 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |