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Former Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) is running against history as he makes a bid for his old seat in 2012: Just one former Senator in the past 50 years was defeated after serving a full term and then elected again to the chamber.
In total, 16 Senators have found their way back to the chamber after being defeated for re-election since the direct election of Senators was instituted in 1914, according to the Senate Historical Office. Two of those were defeated and re-elected more than once. Former Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) was the last person to manage the unlikely feat, getting elected again in 1988 after a 1986 defeat.
Allen made it official Monday that he intends to add his name to that list, announcing in an online video that “it’s time for an American comeback.”
In an interview with Roll Call, Gorton said that when he was approached to run again just two years after being defeated, his close advisers said he was faced with a decision to run one of two ways: Tell the voters that they erred in not re-electing him or admit that he had made mistakes and promise to do better if given the chance. He chose the second option.
Owning up to mistakes from the last time around should be the first order of business for a second bid, Gorton said.
“I don’t see George Allen saying anything about how he screwed up, even though he did,” Gorton said. “If you’re going to do it a second time, I think you have to be very humble.”
To take on Sen. Jim Webb (D), who knocked him from office and remains undecided about running for re-election, Allen will first need to weave through the Republican primary race, which could include at least three other candidates.
However, Republicans in the state believe Allen is building the kind of campaign that will be difficult for anyone to contend with, including Webb.
“He’s building a juggernaut,” said a Virginia Republican strategist who is not affiliated with the campaign.
The strategist pointed to the recent hire of Tim Murtaugh, who served as a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association in 2010 and previously as communications director for the Virginia GOP.
Allen has also hired Katie Wright, a former deputy communications director for the Republican National Committee whom Republicans in the state credit with assisting in the ouster last year of three Democratic Congressmen.
Thanks to those hires and others, the strategist said, “George Allen will run the cleanest, most mistake-free campaign you have ever seen.”