Freshman Senator Jim Webb will not make an effort to run for a second term, Ben Smith reports at Politico. Later today, Webb will announce his retirement, leaving Democrats with an empty seat to defend in what looks to be another tough electoral cycle:
Virginia Senator Jim Webb plans to announce today that he won’t seek reelection, a senior Senate source said.
Webb appeared likely to face a rematch with former Senator George Allen, whom he beat in a bruising 2006 contest. He had expressed ambivalence about the prospect of another run, and has said he never planned a life in politics.
Ambivalence certainly describes Webb’s efforts thus far at extending his stay in the Senate. A week ago, Ben Pershing at the Washington Post noted Webb’s desultory efforts:
Webb’s fund-raising has been slow for some time. The Washington Post reported in December that as of Sept. 30, 23 of the 33 senators up for reelection next year had more cash in the bank than Webb did. That was before the fourth quarter — Webb’s slowest one yet.
Webb had $445,000 in the bank at the end of 2010. In a new roundup of the latest numbers, The Fix finds that of 17 “potentially vulnerable” senators in 2012 whose fundraising totals were available, only two had less cash on hand than Webb.
Webb had no particular explanation in December for why his fund-raising was sparse. “I just haven’t done any of it,” he said, while expressing confidence that he could ramp up and raise the money he would need for 2012 — likely in excess of $10 million — if he does decide to run.
Virginia has begun electing more Republicans of late, including current governor Bob McDonnell in 2009, less than a year after Barack Obama took office. George Allen will challenge for the seat, who lost it in 2006 mainly for mishandling the “macaca” controversy, and he will face at least one challenger from the Tea Party, organizer Jamie Radtke. Webb would have provided Democrats with a defensible moderate in a state fluctuating between different shades of purple, and now they have to look elsewhere to salvage the seat.
Tim Kaine gets the most attention, and as former governor for a single term, he has both name recognition and a track record of state-wide success. However, his performance in office was not exactly popular, one reason why a Republican replaced him. Kaine has also spent a couple of years as chair of the DNC and has provided a number of sound bites that his eventual Republican opponent will be certain to exploit. Without Kaine and Webb, Democrats will have to rely on lesser-known bench players — or perhaps Terry McAuliffe, the former DNC chair that lost the gubernatorial primary to Creigh Deeds in 2009.
Either way, the retirement of Webb makes the Virginia seat a little easier to win for Republicans.