by Paul Goldman
Despite Politico.com having recently published an article by Professor Rozell and yours truly originally entitled [Kooks with Nukes = Webb will run for re-election], recent comments from the former Navy Secretary indicate our certainty isn’t yet shared by Virginia’s senior Senator. “Should I go or should I stay?” asked The Clash in one of rock and roll’s all-time great songs [“It’s always tease, tease, tease, So you gotta let me know, Should I stay or should I blow?”]. Having never hungered for political power, Senator Webb is naturally contemplating the practical side of another 6 year tour of duty eating up a good chunk of the quality time left for his stay on Planet Earth. He had a life before politics: there is a good chance he found it more rewarding in many ways.. There is also the possibility he would rather serve at the cabinet level in a second Obama term. Thus, if Webb runs and wins, he couldn’t resign without giving Governor McDonnell the chance to appoint Ken Cuccinelli to the seat and get the AG out of His Excellency’s hair, at least day to day.
Back in 2006, a case can be made for digital activists having been the drafters of Webb, as they used the Internet to deliver carrots and sticks, making the case for his candidacy in general and him in particular. Might a redraft now be needed? Moreover, it might even be fitting since former Senator George Allen is the big favorite to win the Republican nomination.
Rematches are rare, indeed Allen is going for the record books, trying to the be the first person to defeat two incumbent Senators. The current polls show former Senator Allen has retained a good deal of his political support, an impressive feat since voters have a history of not wanting to re-litigate their choices, Americans prefer looking forward, not rehashing past political contests. The two state wide rematches that come to mind both ended the same way: real bad for the guy who lost the first time by a whisker, the second loss reached landslide proportions. True, they were contested first for Attorney General, and then for Governor, not the situation for a Webb vs Allen II.
Still, the polls show Webb in a strong position to win unless President Obama morphs into George McGovern. Last month’s mid-term election turnout would have greatly favored Allen: but the far larger voter universe going to the polls in a presidential year will be much better for Webb. The days of Republican White House nominees running up landslide wins in a presidential year here in Virginia are things of the past unless Democrats nominate a real dud.
If Obama gets 47+, Webb should be able to win with a good solid campaign. This is one reason Ken Cuccinelli said he wasn’t going to run for the Senate, but made sure everyone could see the daylight coming through the crack in his door leading to the 2013 gubernatorial race.
Bottom line: George Allen has shown remarkable strength so far in terms of a comeback, but logic suggests he would do better against former Governor Kaine even though the polls say otherwise at this point. Webb’s ace of trumps is his super credentials on military matters, which is why he figures to be a lot stronger than Kaine among male voters, a key GOP constituency. Webb then, is the strongest Democratic candidate although Kaine, while not “born fighting” is one heck of a campaigner.
If Webb was Warner’s age, then I would say he should be abducted by Navy Seals, taken to a safe house on the Eastern shore and let released until agreeing to run. But he is older and has surely done sufficient service to his country.
Thus, I think the Seals need to stand down – the Marines too – and instead a more traditional draft Webb campaign seems the appropriate choice. Another politician might be giving off mixed signals in order to bask in the glow of people begging him to run. But if that were true here, then he wouldn’t be Jim Webb.
Net, net: Those who want Jim Webb to run need let him know it, which shouldn’t be a surprise given 2006. Webb is one of the few guys who could walk away from politics and not look back. So a redraft, like the original draft, laying out the case for him to run, is going to have impact on his thinking. In the end, he is soldier, duty, honor, country. But he can’t beat George Allen when his heart isn’t in it, which many feel was the situation with former Senator Robb in 2000.
Does the possibility of a rematch = a redraft? We will soon find out.