Senator Jim Webb’s announcement yesterday that he will not run for reelection in 2012 led Washington Post writer Chris Cillizza to take a look at the future of Webb’s seat and how it could effect the overall playing field in the Senate. His conclusion is that 2012 is stacking up as a very good year for Republicans:

“This seat is going to flip,” predicted one veteran Democratic operative familiar with the Commonwealth’s politics. “The bench is so shallow.”

Webb is the third Democratic (or Democratic-affiliated) Senator to call it quits already this year, joining Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) on the sidelines. Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is the lone Republican to announce she will not seek re-election in 2012.

While holding the Connecticut seat should pose limited problems — if any — for Democrats, both Virginia and North Dakota have deep Republican roots and will be major targets for Republicans in 2012.

The open seats in Virginia and North Dakota — when coupled with the fact that there are 23 Democratic seats up this cycle as compared to just 10 for Republicans — paint a stark portrait of the challenge before Democrats to hold their majority next November.

For Democrats hoping to hold that majority, Virginia is likely to emerge as a linchpin.

The likely beneficiary of Webb’s decision is George Allen, the man who lost narrowly to Webb amid a nasty campaign complete with charges of racism which were heavily promoted by the Washington Post. Allen has already announced his intention to run for the seat.

Now that Karl Rove is speculating about a possible way to repeal ObamaCare via reconciliation (i.e. needing only 51 votes in the Senate) a lot more than merely control of the Senate may be riding on Virginia in 2012.