Others on the list of possible Democratic candidates are Jody Wagner, who lost the lieutenant governor’s race in 2009, Rep. Gerry Connolly from the state’s populous northern region, state House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong, and former Reps. Tom Perriello, Glenn Nye and Rick Boucher.
None of them have said they are interested in the race, but Democrats are considering a crowded primary nonetheless.
A source close to Terry McAuliffe, who ran for governor in 2009 and is believed to be running again for that job in 2013, said the former DNC chairman is interested in an executive role, not the Senate seat.
Webb was dragged into the 2006 race with very little money and with just a few months left before the primary. One former Virginia Democratic operative said Webb would have certain inherent advantages as an incumbent, but having a candidate who shuns the politics of a campaign could be troublesome in the current landscape — especially lacking a “macaca” moment from his opponent.
“Jim Webb hates, hates campaigning. It was an uncomfortable thing for him to do,” the source said. “It’s not as clear-cut as one might think.”
Strategists cited the Northern Virginia exurban counties that have swung in recent elections. Obama won Prince William and Loudoun counties by double digits in 2008 on his way to becoming the first Democratic nominee to carry the state since the landslide 1964 election. Bob McDonnell (R) saw similar margins there in his successful gubernatorial run in 2009.
Unlike the 2006 Webb-Allen race, this one coincides with a presidential election, and Democrats maintain that all indications are that Obama will compete in the state again, giving the Democratic Senate nominee — whoever that turns out to be — a major edge.
Members of the tea party movement jumped on the news and cited it as yet another victory for its cause. Richmond Tea Party President Jamie Radtke is already running, and two more conservative Republicans are also considering bids.
“This is yet another win for the tea party movement as we build upon the momentum of the 2010 elections,” the Tea Party Express stated in a fundraising e-mail.
Webb announced his first Senate bid on Feb. 8, 2006, one day before his 60th birthday. He announced his retirement on Wednesday, his 65th birthday, with a promise to continue pushing the issues he has advocated in his first four years in office.
“It has been a great and continuing privilege to serve in the United States Senate, and one I have you to thank for,” Webb said in an e-mail to supporters. “I am very proud of my talented and dedicated staff, which has worked tirelessly to resolve the issues on which I based my candidacy, and to protect the interests of all Virginians in this national forum.”
Roll Call Politics rates this race a Tossup.
Former Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Richard Cranwell called Webb a “phenomenal” Senator and predicted the political landscape will look much different in November 2012 than it did three months ago.
“My guess is by the time the election gets here it’s going to be a different world out there,” Cranwell said. “The economy is going to be a whole lot better, and it will be a good environment for Democrats.”