09 February 2011

Webb of Prospective Defeat (sic)

On his 65th birthday, first term Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) announced that he did not want to spend his whole life in politics announced that he was returning to the private sector by not seeking re-election in 2012.  Well, that’s quite a tale for Webb to spin, especially as it ignores history.

Webb ran for the Senate in 2006, which was a mini-wave election for Democrats in the wake of corruption scandals of Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA 50th ) Rep. Bob Nye (R-OH 18th) and the Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL 16th) sexual follies.  Moreover, the conservative vote in the 2006 Virginia Senate race was split between the incumbent Senator George Allen (R-VA) and by the fringe Independence Green Party candidacy of Gail Parker. The fiscally conservative and socially green Parker won by garnered 26,102 votes (1.1%). The margin between Webb and Allen was 0.5%, so “Gail for Rail” almost certainly swung the Virginia Senate seat, as well as control of the Senate to the Democrats.  If that was not enough extenuating circumstances for Webb, the Washington Post had a two month barrage of negative stories against Sen. Allen’s “Macaca” moment.

Many political observers were not surprised by Webb’s announcement.  He had not been fundraising and there was the prevailing impression that Webb did not enjoy being a Senator. Although Webb’s announcement of his retirement from the Senate pats himself on the back for:

[Giving] our Post- 9/11 veterans the best GI Bill since World War Two; we have taken the lead in reforming our criminal justice system; we have led the way toward stronger relations in East and Southeast Asia; and we have been a strong voice in calling on China to act more responsibly in the world community.
What most wags will remember about Sen. Webb’s tenure was for the gun rap that Phillip Thomas, his Executive Assistant, took for trying to sneak Senator Webb’s loaded pistol into the Russell Senate Office Building in 2007.  Charges against the aide were dismissed after prosecutors concluded it could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Thompson was aware that the gun and ammunition were in the briefcase.  But this afforded Senator Webb an opportunity to re-iterate his support for gun owners rights, even though it appeared as if  he did not respect DC law on the matter.

Psephologists will recognize that the 2012 Election Cycle is going to be challenging for Senate Democrats structurally. Democrats will need to defend 22 of 33 seats, if you include Socialist Senator Sanders (I-VT). Election landscapes can change, but it does not look like it will be a robust economic environment to run.  Combine those sobering facts with the razor thin margin by which he won in 2006, no wonder why Webb years for “retirement” from the Senate.

Speculation on Webb’s replacement has been for former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D-VA), who was term limited in 2009.  But Governor Bob McDonnell’s (R-VA) 18 point election margin in 2009 might indicate that the Commonwealth is returning to the more solidly Red State map.  Granted, 2010 was a Teanami Election Year for Conservatives. But Gov. Kaine was the DNC leader.  In national office, it is rare that failed candidates get a second chance.  This may extend to party leadership.

In 2006 election cycle, DNC Chairman Howard Dean recruited a gaggle of moderate sounding candidates like Sen. Webb, Senator Casey (D-PA) and Sen. Claire Mc Caskill (D-MO) who actually won their races. However,  after experiencing the soft shoe duplicity from Democrat moderates who talk moderately on the campaign hustings but vote with the Liberal leadership once in office, it is likely that voters won’t get fooled again.

Once again, it looks like Blue Dogs are going the way of the Dodo Bird or maybe the liberal Republican.

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