What a tangled Webb!

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By John Barnhart

    I’m still curious why Senator Jim Webb announced that he won’t run for reelection.

    Some people have suggested to me that Webb rode the fence so much on so many issues that people on the left and right are unhappy with him. The lefties probably don’t like the fact that he wouldn’t support cap and trade. I see that as evidence that there are at least a few “Democrats” who understand the devastating impact that this would have had on people on the lower rungs on the economic ladder. On the other hand, conservatives, me included, aren’t happy with him because he voted for ObamaCare.
    I’ve also heard suggestions that Webb was pushed. He wasn’t left enough for his party’s dominant left wing and they are in a purging mood.
    Then, I’ve heard that Webb didn’t really want the office in the first place and was surprised that he won. Back in 2006, George Allen looked like presidential material. If he hadn’t self-destructed during his Senate reelection campaign he probably would have been the Republicans’ nominee for president in 2008 and could well have been elected president. In light of this, according to the theory, Webb was talked into running for the Senate by “Democrats” who wanted to keep Allen’s margin of victory below 60 percent. Allen, however, proceeded to get himself in trouble with a stupid remark at a campaign appearance, and then make a complete mess of damage control afterward. Webb ended up being elected to an office he really didn’t want. Now that Webb’s term is nearing its end, and he’s just about off the hook, he announced that he’s not running again.
    This makes sense as Webb probably had as good a chance of being reelected as any “Democrat.” While conventional wisdom says that the winds of public opinion that are blowing against “Democrats” now will continue next year, we really won’t know that until next year comes. If the election turned into an Allen vs. Webb rematch, “Democratic” Party activists would surely remind everybody of Allen’s Maccaca moment. Besides, Republicans aren’t uniformly enthusiastic about Allen. I’ve heard some say that Republicans can do better. Webb’s voting record, while not to my liking, does make him more mainstream than most “Democrats,” so he would have been a good candidate for the Donkey Party to run.
    So who are the “Democrats” going to run? The two names I’ve seen suggested are Tim Kaine and Tom Perriello.
    My guess is that they will nominate Kaine.
    I don’t think One-Term Tommy would have a realistic chance of winning. He voted for cap-and-trade in the House. This vote was not only unpopular in his district, it’s also the same issue that unseated Rick Boucher, who had held the 9th Congressional District seat since 1983. Perriello also voted for ObamaCare, another vote that was hugely unpopular in his district and, I’m sure, in other parts of Virginia as well. The folks up in Charlottesville may get excited about him, but Perriello is too far left to be a viable candidate for a statewide office in Virginia.    
    Kaine, of course, has won a statewide office, although I attribute his win primarily to a very stupid mistake by Jerry Kilgore’s campaign, rather than anything that’s particularly good about Kaine. For some reason, Kilgore chose to go negative at the beginning of his campaign while ahead in the polls. Negative campaigning can work, but it can also backfire and that’s what it did in Kilgore’s case.
    Right now, it’s a bit premature to say anything definite about this as there is still a year to go before the two parties settle on their candidates for Senate for 2012, Nevertheless, my bet is on an Allen/Kaine matchup next year.