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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Webb’s Fold Leaves Void

I’m probably not alone in feeling ambivalent about Senator Jim Webb’s announced retirement from the U.S. Senate. I had already given up on the notion of him as a promising southern Democratic leader. He had made it pretty clear that he just didn’t have the fire in the belly to become a major player in Democratic politics. Webb always seemed a bit stiff in the limelight, more the introverted writer than the exuberant public figure.
A decorated veteran and policy wonk, Webb had the creds and brains to do more. He was progressive on economic issues, and I was hoping at one point that he could help awaken a progressive populist spirit among southern voters. I liked the way he stood up to Bush on Iraq, and his response to Bush’s ’07 SOTU got well-deserved plaudits. He took some heat from women activists for his comments in another statement about women in combat, and Latinos, regarding his hard line on immigration issues. Perhaps he could have healed those wounds, but it’s all moot now.
I think Dems have a good chance of holding Webb’s seat. Polls, schmolls, if the economy improves significantly, Tim Kaine, Terry McAuliffe or Tom Periello could beat George Allen, who faces a bruising primary battle with a tea party candidate. Of the three Dems, Kaine has the stronger track record, cash and VA know-how, but he has made “not interested” noises. McAuliffe has dough, but lacks charisma, though Allen is not exactly flush in that department either.
Whoever Dems nominate, it should be a marquee Senate race. Dems need this seat, especially given the GOP advantage in having to defend far fewer Senate seats in ’12. The “upper south” (Va and NC) is critical for Dem hopes in ’12, and this seat could be the lynchpin.

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