Wednesday, June 14, 2006

VA Senate Race Will Be Republican v. Angry Republican

The Washington Post repeatedly reports on Virginia's senate race:

The springtime squabble between Democrats produced a near-record low turnout that a state election official described as "dismal." Polling places across Virginia reported being empty for long stretches, even though voting was open to all of the state's 4.5 million registered voters.


Election officials said just over 3 percent of voters went to the polls, far less than the 16 percent who voted in the 1996 primary between Republican Sen. John W. Warner and former Reagan budget director James C. Miller III.

"I just don't understand," said Jean Jensen, secretary of the state Board of Elections. "It's dismal. It's not even very high in Fairfax County," where both candidates live.


Webb now faces the challenge of raising millions of dollars in an attempt to oust Allen, a popular ex-governor who is considering a bid for the presidency in 2008. Allen has more than $7.5 million in the bank and a long history of winning in a state that usually votes for Republicans in federal contests.

Allen, the son of a beloved Washington Redskins coach by the same name, became a darling among conservatives as governor in the mid-1990s, when he abolished parole, toughened education standards and changed the welfare system. He left office in 1997 with strong approval ratings and beat incumbent Charles S. Robb (D) in the 2000 Senate race.

Allen's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, said the Republicans look forward to running against a "very fractured, divided Democratic Party" and "having John Kerry . . . campaign with Mr. Webb."


...some voters wondered why they bothered, given Allen's popularity across Virginia, a Republican-leaning state.

Lifelong Democrat and Manassas resident Richard Geris, 68, voted for Webb because "he's got the best chance of unseating Allen."

"But," Geris added, "I don't give him a snowball's chance in hell of doing it."


[Webb's] first appeal was to people like himself. "It's time to welcome home those Democrats who left for a time, the Reagan Democrats, the conservative Democrats, whatever labels we give them," Webb said. "It's time to welcome them home."

They may be the ones who can deliver Webb to the Senate in the fall, but they are not the ones who gave him his victory yesterday. Although Webb has portrayed himself as the candidate who will appeal to conservative voters in southwest Virginia and bring out new military supporters in the Tidewater, it was the tried-and-true Democrats from Northern Virginia who provided his margin of victory yesterday. More than 42 percent of all the votes were cast in the Washington suburbs, and Webb won an overwhelming majority of them.


But what Democrats have at this point is more a résumé than a candidate. On paper, the 60-year-old Webb is a Vietnam War hero who's against the war in Iraq, a Republican military specialist who has renounced his old party and brings instant national security credibility to Democrats. He's a noted author, screenwriter and journalist, beloved by the liberal blogosphere yet fluent in the language of the commonwealth's rural heart.

On the stump, he can be hesitant and uninterested in domestic policy questions. He hates the demands of fundraising -- "odious" is what he calls the process -- and it shows; he has not been very successful at it. Some find his rawness appealing while others just find it raw.


National Democrats are still not ready to move Virginia into the top tier of races that they think will help give them a majority in the Senate.

Allen has never lost a statewide race, and he has a huge advantage in fundraising: He has raised more than $10 million. And as withdrawn and shy as Webb sometimes can be, that's just how outgoing and gregarious Allen is on the stump.

One WaPo article contains an interesting county-by-county map of the primary results.

Commonwealth Conservative also reviews the race. Virginia Virtucon gives the best summary of the few I've read:

Six things we learned from the Dem. Sen. Primary

A bad campaign will beat a bad candidate.

Democrats will sell their ideological soul for the glimmer of a possibility of victory.

Style beats substance.

We now know that there's a Democrat born every minute (see P.T. Barnum's famous quote.)

Even then, only 3 percent of Virginia voters think of themselves as Democrat primary voters.

The WashPo endorsement is as irrelevant to a majority of Democrats as it is to Republicans.

Update: The same writer gives the best short bio of James Webb:
When given the chance, Webb has cut and run the past 20 years. As Reagan's SecNav, as a member of the GOP and now he wants the USA to cut and run in Iraq. He’s gone from "Born Fighting" to "Born Quitter."
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