Webb running against Allen.

Big news from Mike Shear at the Washington Post: James Webb is in. He’s running against Sen. George Allen in this year’s election.

I haven’t met Webb or the other Democratic candidate, Harris Miller. I know them only from their resumes, their writings, and word-of-mouth. (Miller spoke briefly at an inaugural breakfast that I attended, but time was short and he said little, so I didn’t glean much from it.) Based only on that limited information, I’m mightily impressed with James Webb, and suspect that he could run a much stronger campaign against George Allen than Harris Miller could. He’s got an amazing resume, he’s got great name recognition, and the combination of Webb and Sen. John Warner is just the kind of representation that Hampton Roads needs.

I’m most excited about this because I think that competition is healthy, and I wouldn’t want Miller to be handed the nomination by default any more than I’d want that for Webb.

The credit for Webb’s decision goes largely to the kids at Draft James Webb and Raising Kaine. They got the word out about Webb, getting 1,000 names of people willing to offer money or volunteer hours, which must have made Webb’s decision easier.

I look forward to meeting the candidates, seeing how they campaign, and refining my sense of who is more likely to be able to defeat Sen. George Allen.

The Virginia blogosphere just got a whole lot more exciting.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

28 replies on “Webb running against Allen.”

  1. I can almost hear it now… our voices united in song to George Allen… “Na na na na. Na na na na. Hey, hey. GOODBYE.”

  2. Aside from Mark Warner, this is the one guy in the whole Commonwealth of Virginia who George Allen really had to worry about. Suddenly, we’re all right in the middle of a marquee race. Cool!

    Reagan Republicans, welcome to the big Democratic tent.

  3. A few awesome quotes from the Shear article:

    “PLEASE RUN!!!” says an entry from Herndon. “Virginia needs you, the country needs you. We need to restore sanity and integrity to Congress.”

    A comment from Alexandria said: “When the pundits and critics point out that you aren’t a ‘real’ Democrat, just paraphrase Ronald Reagan and say: ‘I didn’t leave the Republican Party. They left me.’

    Steve Jarding, who managed former governor Mark R. Warner’s campaign in 2001, said he had met with Webb several times in the past few weeks.

    “He’s fearless and a tremendously exciting candidate,” Jarding said. “I’m unbelievably impressed with him. He’s got the perfect profile to run against George Allen.”


    “This is Ronald Reagan’s secretary of the Navy saying, ‘The Democratic Party is closer to my ideals,’ ” Jarding said. “This is the genuine, real deal.”

  4. Thanks James Webb!! I am very please with you and with us for helping to sway you. A true grassroots effort.

    Your sacrifice is well noted. You made the leap and now we have a race!!!

  5. John Warner and Teddy Roosevelt were both Secretaries of the Navy prior to holding high office. Can anyone else think of former Secretaries of the Navy that went on to run for high office? Whether they won or lost, I’m interested.

  6. Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island was Secretary of the Navy. His son, Lincoln now holds the seat. He was appointed after his father died in 1999.

    John Connally was FDR’s Secretary of the Navy and subsequently elected Governor of Texas.

    Frank Knox was Secretary of the Navy under FDR after he ran against FDR as a candidate for Vice President in 1936.

    This followed precisely the mold of Charles Edison, son of famed inventor Thomas, who left to run for and win the Governor’s office in New Jersey.

    Claude A. Swanson was a Virginia Governor, then a Virginia Senator and was THEN Secretary of the Navy.

    This guy wasn’t elected to anything, but what an interesting life: Charles Joseph Bonaparte

    Massachusetts Governor John Davis Long later served as Secretary of the Navy (1897-1902)

    Isaac Toucey was Governor of Connecticut, Senator, US Attorney General and then Secretary of the Navy

    NC Governor and Senator William Alexander Graham Served as Secretary of the Navy and then Ran for Vice President as a Whig.

    Thomas Gilmer was Governor of Virginia before becoming Secretary of the Navy in 1844

    Abel P. Upshur was Secretary of the Navy under John Tyler and left to succeed Daniel Webster as Secretary of State.

    George Edmund Badger was Secretary of the Navy under William Henry Harrison, and was later a Whig Senator from North Carolina.

    James K Paulding served as Sec Nav under Martin Van Buren and was also one of the most prolific novelists of the antebellum period and a friend of Washington Irving.

    Mahlon Dickerson was Governor of New Jersey, Senator from New Jersey for 16 years, and then Secretary of the Navy.

    Here’s a big one. Levi Woodbury. 1823-elected Governor of New Hampshire. 1825-elected US Senator. 1831- Secretary of the Navy. 1834-Secretary of the Treasury. 1841- US senator. 1845 – Became the first associate justice of the US supreme court to have actually attended law school. (James Webb’s law degree is from Georgetown).

    John Branch Governor and Senator from North Carolina, and was appointed by John Tyler as territorial Governor of Florida until a constitutional Governor could be elected in 1845.

    Samuel Southard was New Jersey Senator, Governor, Secretary of the Navy, and President pro-tempore of the US Senate.

    And finally…

    Robert Smith (not to be confused with Robert Smith) held offices of Secretary of the Navy, US Attorney General, and Secretary of State.


  7. People seem to forget George Allen’s major advantages in this race. One, he had one of the most successful terms as governor in Virginia’s history (parol abolition, welfare reform, truth in sentencing) and remains extremely well liked in areas of the state Democrats must perform well in to win (i.e. Southwest and Southside Virginia).

    Second, Allen is one of the best natural campaigners in Virginia’s history. He has a self depreciating wit and charm that plays very well in rural Virginia, yet displays enough mainstream conservative values to do well in the suburbs. Do not let Allen’s “aw schucks” persona fool you, he has absolutely superb political skills and communication ability.

    Whoever wins the Dem nomination will be a wounded candidate and have to expend an enormous amount of money to win the nomination. Allen has a national fundraising machine and, unlike Kilgore, knows what it takes to win in Virginia and has a united GOP behind him.

    Lastly, the economy is doing extremely well under President Bush, and his “unpopularity” nationwide means nothing now. The bottom line is the economy is doing extremely well (lower unemployment and better job growth rate then even the Clinton years) and Bush’s popularity in Virginia is bound to recover. Furthermore, Allen is his own man. Serving as governor and Senator, he has a record of accomplishment that he can run on; he’s hardly tied to Bush.

    Allen wins by 6 points, regardless of who the Dems put up, partly because the national Democratic Party has become devoid of ideas, and the only ideas being put forth are from the left wing of the party that is so far out of the mainstream of Virginia and the rest of the nation that they have no hope of winning.

  8. Lastly, the economy is doing extremely well under President Bush, and his “unpopularity” nationwide means nothing now.

    You’re fooling yourself if you genuinely believe either of these things. You try telling the citizens of Danville that “the economy is doing extremely well.” Let us know how that tar and those feathers feel.

    the only ideas being put forth are from the left wing of the party that is so far out of the mainstream of Virginia and the rest of the nation that they have no hope of winning

    Comments like this and your previous would be reasonable if Tim Kaine hadn’t just defeated Jerry Kilgore by over 5%. Quite clearly, the ideas put forth by the Democratic Party define the mainstream of Virginia, and very much appeal to the voters.

    More important, James Webb is hardly “the left wing of the party.” Webb is very much a centrist; anybody who cannot see that is so far to the right that they can no longer comprehend the lay of the political land.

  9. Tim Kaine did not run as a liberal in the classic sense; he ran ads on Christian radio stations highlighting the fact that as a young man he was a “missionary to Latin America”. He ran from any “high tax” label that was attempted to be placed on him by the GOP, stated he did not support gay marriage, would not introduce any new anti-gun legislation. He continually used “buzzphrases” that confused his position on abortion, and called abortion an “national tragedy” on 790AM. Kaine did not expose any major new piece of big government legislation.

    The bottom line he ran on generally mainstream conservative issues. If he ran on a solidly liberal platform he may have performed well in the liberal conclaves of Arlington, Alexandria and Charlottesville, but would have simply gotten hammered in other areas of the state.

    It is amusing that within days of his swearing in he supports a huge tax increase in the face of a budget surplus. If his policy positions are so “mainstream” for Virginia, why didn’t he run on raising taxes to pay for transportation? Raising revenue for more government services is a classic liberal position that he ran away from like it was the Ebola virus. In fact, in the debates he consistently attempted to shy the “liberal” tag that the GOP attempted to place on him.

    If his major platform for governor was raising taxes in the midst of a surplus he would not have won, and if he did it would not have been by 6 points.

    Yes, Southside’s economy is relatively weak, but would southside voters support a candidate (Webb) whose self professed expertise is National Security, and not domestic issues? Especially when Allen has shown an amazing propensity to connect with rural voters?

    The fact that the national unemployment rate is lower than what it was under Clinton is a fact, I’m sorry to say.

  10. “Quite clearly, the ideas put forth by the Democratic Party define the mainstream of Virginia, and very much appeal to the voters.”

    The point of my last post was largely in response to the above statement. The “ideas” put forth by the state Democratic Party (or more likely, its candidates for Governor) are not, in any way, what the national Democratic party is posturing or advocating. Not that these values are beholden to any specific party, but the laundry list that I listed (emphasis on faith, values, no additional gun legislation, no new taxes, pro-business, etc.) are not the values being put forth by the national Democratic Party in any sense.

    There is no doubt they appeal to voters, and I have no doubt that Webb will run as a mainstream, moderate/conservative like Kaine and Warner did before him. However, Allen is a known commodity, and when you have a popular incumbent you have to go negative and/or accentuate the differences between you and the incumbent.

    As a result, Webb has a tough choice; run as a conservative to moderate Democrat and risk having little, if any, policy differences with Allen or create clear policy differences between Allen and risk losing mainstream Virginia.

    Webb does have one large advantage, he can run to the center and not risk losing his Democratic base because they largely dislike Allen immensely and want to support a winner. But Allen has extremely positive poll numbers in Virginia (which is a large reason why Beyer decided not to challenge him) and to bring those down you have to go negative.

    I just don’t think he’ll perform that well overall, Allen is a man who loves a good fight. That given, the Democratic party’s bench is relatively weak for 2009, and with no heir apparent to Kaine, if Webb runs a respectable race (gets between 46 and 48% of the vote) he could very well “pull a Warner” and set himself up for a Governor’s race in three years.

    Those are my thoughts

  11. The “ideas” put forth by the state Democratic Party (or more likely, its candidates for Governor) are not, in any way, what the national Democratic party is posturing or advocating. Not that these values are beholden to any specific party, but the laundry list that I listed (emphasis on faith, values, no additional gun legislation, no new taxes, pro-business, etc.) are not the values being put forth by the national Democratic Party in any sense.

    I certainly agree with you there. If the DNC is unable to comprehend that Virginia just isn’t like many other states, and they tried to externally manipulate Webb’s campaign (assuming that he gets the nomination) or speak on his behalf, there’d be trouble. Democrats are, thankfully, increasingly understanding that all states are not the same, and one size doesn’t fit all. The $5M that Tim Kaine received from the DNC seemed to me like a good sign. (Though that was before Howard Dean took over the chairmanship.)

    I think, too, that the left wing of Virginia is cognizant of the need to sit down and shut up. Most people seem to understand that a progressive Democrat isn’t likely to be elected to statewide office (though Leslie Byrne has helped to question that assumption), and are good about not subjecting Democrats to litmus tests.

    This places Webb in a great position. He can represent himself as a centrist Democrat with all honesty, gain the support of Democrats in the state and, if he can run a good campaign, claim the center. His resume, extensive writings, and experience seem to indicate that he is ideologically and rhetorically capable of claiming the center. But that’s is where hope and prognostication start to get muddled.

  12. I think with the shifting demographics in Virginia and the annoyance factor will help James Webb. As far as demographics, Tim Kaine proved that you dont have to pander to the wishes of right wing voters in rural areas to win. If you take a common sense approach you can win the state of Virginia. The only reason Republicans win Virginia by such large margins in federal elections is because of the Republican nature of the DC exurbs/suburbs like Prince William and Loudon. If you thought the race for governor was a one time shift in Loudon county and Prince William then how do you explaine the overwhelming victory of Herring? There is also Fairfax which will probably be lean to likely Democratic for the next few election cycles and maybe for now on (Albemarle probably fits this category as well). Another demographic that people should pay attention to is Tidewater which aslo tilts Republican. Being that Webb is A.- From Tidewater and B.- has actual military experience and isnt just running his mouth like George Allen probably means that he will poll well there as well. These demographic changes along with Henrico County’s leftward trend, Charlottesville-Albemarle and surrounding counties leftward trend makes me believe that Webb has a chance based on demographics alone.

    Then there is the annoyance factor and the 6th year itch. Every poll is showing it, Americans are fed up and annoyed with the rediculous rhetoric coming out of the Republican Party. Gay bashing, “baby killer” language, and “he’s a liberal….” talk will not get you very far this year. Also, every poll is also showing that the gap between Democratic identifiers and Republican is growing nationwide. In fact there are now more Democrats in Ohio, Nevada, Florida, and Pennsylvannia (to name a few) when Republicans had the lead last year. In terms of Virginia, I believe it was the Washington Times that had a story out about the change in party ID in the state. Democrats used to trail by a few percentage points but polls are consistently finding them gaining ground and some have them tied. Also, I have said it once and I will say it again, the way to win Virginia is to win the Independent vote. The reason I wasn’t very worried about Kaine winning is because of his sizable margin among Independents – they make up a huge chunk of the voters and how they go is how the state goes (usually).

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  14. politicalopinon:

    Get ready to have the lid blown off your staid and played assumptions about politics and politicians.

    James Webb is an American original.


    Here ya go:

    Secretary of the Navy, is a unique, powerful, and grave assignment, reserved for prominent statesmen of historical renoun:

    Secretary Robert Smith 2nd SecNav also served as US Attorney General and US Secretary of State.

    Secretary Paul Hamilton 3rd SecNav also served as Governor of South Carolina.

    Secretary Smith Thompson was also a Supreme Court Justice.

    Secretary Samuel Southard also serves as New Jersey Governor, Senator and President pro-tempore of the US Senate.

    Secretary John Branch served as governor of North Carolina, Senator from North Carolina and the Territorial Governor of Florida, before a formal Governor was elected under a state constitution.

    Secretary Levi Woodbury was Governor of New Hampshire, Senator from New Hampshire, US Secretary of the Treasury and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

    Secretary Mahlon Dickerson also served as Governor of New Jersey and Senator from New Jersey.

    In addition to serving as Secretary of the Navy James Paulding was one of the most prolific authors of the antebellum period and a personal friend and collaborator with Washington Irving.

    Secretary Edmund George Badger was a Whig Senator from North Carolina.

    Secretary Abel Upshur went on to serve as Secretary of State.

    Secretary Thomas Walker Gilmer served as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and it’s widely considered that his untimely death delayed the annexation of Texas.

    Secretary John Mason served as Secretary of the Navy two times and was also US Attorney General.

    Secretary George Bancroft is one of the nation’s greatest historians and commissioned President Lincoln to handwrite one of the 5 known handwritten copies of the Gettysburgh Address.

    Secretary William Ballard Preston served as a US Congressman, and submitted the resolution of succession which made Virginia a part of the Confederacy. He served as a Confederate Senator.

    Secretary William Alexandar Graham served as a Senator from and Governor of North Carolina and was a Candiadate for Vice President from the Whig party.

    Secretary John P. Kennedy was a Congressman from Maryland.

    Secretary Isaac Toucey served as Governor of and Senator from Connecticut. He also served as US Attorney General.

    Gideon Welles was Secretary of the Navy for the entire Civil War and his naval blocades were integral to the Northern victory.

    Secretary John Davis Long went on to serve as Governor of Massachusetts.

    Secretary William Henry Moody served as Attorney General and Associat Justice of the US Supreme Court.

    Secretary Charles Joseph Boneparte (a direct descendent of Napoleon) also served as US Attorney General.

    Secretary Victor H. Metcalf served as a congressman from California, and also as Secretary of Commerce and Labor under Teddy Roosevelt.

    Secretary George von Lengerke Meyer served as US Postmaster General.

    Secretary Josephus Daniels served as US Ambassador to Mexico.

    Secretary Edwin C. Denby was a Congressman from Michigan and a key figure in the infamous “teapot” scandal that rocked the Harding Presidency.

    Secretary Curtis Wilber left his position as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court to serve as Secretary of the Navy where he established the naval air force.

    Secretary Claude Swanson took the position of Secretary of the Navy after serving as Governor of and Senator from the great Commonwealth of Virginia.

    Secretary Charles Edison (son of the great inventor) went on to be elected Governor of New Jersey.

    Secretary Frank Knox was a Republican Vice Presidential nominee.

    Secretary James Forrestal went on to be Secretary of Defense.

    Secretary Robert Bernard Anderson served as Secretary of the Treasury.

    Secretary Thomas S. Gates Jr. was Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense.

    Let’s not forget Secretary John Connally, who went on to become Governor of Texas before heading the US Treasury.

    Secretary Paul Nitze is most famous as the primary architect of Cold War military policy for Presidents Truman Through Reagan.

    Secretary John Chafee was Governor of and Senator from Rhode Island. His son, Lincoln assumed his seat after his death in 1999.

    You may be familiar with the career of Secretary John Warner who has been our Senator from Virginia since being elected in 1979.

    Secretary Sean O’Keefe ran NASA until he retired last year to serve as Chancellor of Lousiana State University.

  15. Damn, I was wrong, Donald Winter and Gordon England are the frontrunners for higher office today. I mean, Winter and England are both imminently qualified that voters everywhere are panting for them to run for higher office. Furthermore, Winter is in the news so constantly and is so much part of the public consciousness that Kanye West wishes he had his name ID.

    When I’m thinking of potential candidates for federal office, none are higher than Donald Winter and Gordon England.

    Who are they? Oh, I’m sorry, they are the last two Secretaries of the Navy.

    Secretary of the Navy: Stepping Stone to the U.S. Senate

  16. poli:

    Easy there, big fella. It’s pretty early to be getting desperate and shrill. Why not wait until after we get a nominee.

    Why not go to blockbuster and check out “Anger Management”. It’s a good movie, and seems like somebody could use a good laugh.


  17. I’d be happy just to see almost any other reasonable candidate defeat Allen. Everytime I’ve ever seen him on TV it seems as though he just “reeks” of insincerity (much more than the average politician).

    Anyway I’d feel much better if the congress and executive branch were in the hands of opposing parties (dem’s in congress and repub’s in the executive branch- or vice versa). For me it’s about keeping with what the founders intended… checks and Balences and all that.

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