Home Virginia Politics New poll: Webb backed by US history as Allen would be 1st...

New poll: Webb backed by US history as Allen would be 1st to defeat 2 incumbents


Public Policy Polling is coming out later today with the first post-2010 mid-term poll testing a Jim Webb vs. George Allen rematch for U.S. Senate in 2012.  While we’re waiting, let’s review some history.

In 2000, Allen defeated incumbent Senator Chuck Robb. No one in American history has ever defeated two incumbent Senators.

Historically, the odds strongly favor the incumbent in any rematch. There has never been a rematch in the modern two-party era here in Virginia. The most famous return political bout in recent history in this part of the USA was in 1996, between incumbent North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms and challenger Harvey Gantt. Even though one was in a presidential year turnout and the other a mid-term election electorate, the results were roughly the same.  

Two Republican first-term Virginia Senators have refused to run, but no incumbent before Robb had ever lost a general election, although Pat Robertson’s father was defeated for renomination in the 1966 Democratic party primary, the first held after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. The results of this primary, which saw Senator Harry Byrd Jr. barely win the party’s nomination for the right to complete the remainder of his legendary father’s term [he had been appointed to the post when the founder of the Byrd machine died in office], was the formal political catalyst for the transformation of Virginia politics. The “Byrd Democrats,” as they were called, started their move – forgive me granddaddy! – into the party of Lincoln!

To be fair, they first went independent, backing Harry Jr. for re-election in 1970 when he ran as an independent, in large measure because then Republican Governor Linwood Holton – what has this world come to?!? – sent his daughter to an integrated Richmond public school.

Holton had become the first GOP Governor since Virginia was readmitted back into the Union when the New Democrats led by Henry Howell of Norfolk split with the Byrd Democrats in the 1969 general election after a bitter Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Howell had won a Supreme Court ruling overturning the poll tax, and was considered crazy by the Virginia political establishment for believing what he had read somewhere in the Declaration of Independence, something about all of us being created equal.

How radical!

If Allen does run against Webb, history will therefore be on the line in Virginia and possibly the country.

Given yesterday’s Virginia polling numbers for the President, the PPP results later today on Webb vs Allen figure to be fascinating, especially with the first post-2010 meetings of both Democrats and Republicans soon to be held.

There is a good chance these polling numbers will cause a shock in one party or the other, in part because there has yet been any “expectation” level set for a rematch.

Thus there is a good chance the numbers will be a surprise, either on the upside or downside, to a lot of people who will find their expectations were too high.

  • Cool_Arrow

    I am curious to see what PPP’s numbers are. Based off of their VA Obama numbers my guess is it is 46-44 Webb. Why people are freaked out about Allen I am not sure. Yes Webb barely won in 2006 but that was with a midterm electorate. In 2008 the electorate will be more friendly to Webb and I do believe that the economy is going to slowly continue recovering which should significantly help Webb. The GOP would do much better to nominate an empty suit without baggage like Bill Bolling or Rob Whittman. They nominate Allen and he immediately starts with a ceiling of about 54% where no matter what he does he won’t be able to break that (provided that his opponent doesn’t implode and do something worse than what he did).

    Any other predictions for what PPP is going to peg the race at? They had pretty decent numbers yesterday for John Tester from Montana as well. Likely because they are polling registered voters and not likely voters.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    I fully expect Jim Webb to run better in Hampton Roads, if for no other reason that the new GI Bill, which he is able to take full credit for.

    Now, if we could just get him to commit to run for re-election…

  • Tom

    I know it would be hard for Davis to give up his $1M/year lobbyist job, but Davis seems to be the only potential GOP Senatorial candidate in Virginia who speaks the truth about the his own party and what the right-wing extremists have done to their party.

    And I think it would be an interesting match-up between Webb and Davis, partly because they like and respect each other and neither is much inclined toward negative attack strategies.

    I just wish Webb would make up his mind about whether he is running for re-election, in fact I kinda expect that he may make an announcement of his intentions at the 3-4 Dec. DPVA meetings in Newport News. Webb has to know that if he chooses not to run the DPVA needs as much time as possible to recruit and nominate a candidate, and start building a grassroots volunteer force as well as funding quickly.


  • somethingblue

    No one in American history has ever defeated two incumbent Senators.

    I think that’s one of those facts like “No starting pitcher with two Ps in his last name has ever defeated the Orioles at home.” It’s a curiosity of no particular predictive value. Defeating two Senate incumbents is improbable for a variety of reasons: rematches like this make up a very small proportion of Senate races, most Senators and many challengers are of fairly advanced age, most Senate seats aren’t remotely competitive, etc. But not because there’s some curse or inbuilt obstacle. It’s certainly happened in the House (Baron Hill, IN-9, and I imagine there are others). There’s no reason it couldn’t happen in the Senate. If Webb runs and Allen beats him, then Allen would become the only person in American history ever to defeat two incumbent Senators, and that would be an interesting piece of trivia, but not particularly significant.

  • leedynamo

    What politician tries to run for his old job that he lost?  And, Marshall is even worse……..for the Republicans.  I don’t know if he could get elected somewhere in the US statewide, but it won’t happen in Virginia.