You know what Congressman Tom Perriello should have done differently?
That’s basically how I feel about today’s news that Senator Jim Webb isn’t going to seek a second term. If Perriello had changed his votes or his message to appease the right, he wouldn’t be Perriello—he’d just be another pandering politician. Webb hated running for Senate, and has demonstrated a remarkable independence in his four years in office. Webb’s a guy who just like to get shit done, and doesn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about it, least of all campaigning about it. The biggest news about Webb yesterday—eclipsed by today’s announcement—was that he is reintroducing his prison reform bill. (I speculated two years ago that Webb was planning to be a single term senator, with his prison reform plan as Exhibit A.) I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Today is Jim Webb’s 65th birthday. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, either.
So good for Jim Webb for not running for reelection. In two years, he’ll be able to be “James Webb” again—I’m not sure that he’s thrilled with strangers calling him by the familiar “Jim”—and, between now and then, he gets to retain his total freedom to vote for what he wants, introduce bills that support whatever he wants, continue to ignore fundraising, and just generally be Jim Webb.
As is obligatory to acknowledge at this point, yes, a lot of people are bound to dip their toe into the water for this seat. Now that there won’t be an incumbent, we’ll probably see more Republicans stepping forward, perhaps acting as a relief valve for the 2013 gubernatorial election. On the Democratic side, potentials surely include everybody from the odious Terry McAuliffe to the recently defeated Tom Perriello. But I suspect that, if Tim Kaine enters the race, everybody else will step aside. I imagine there will be a little dance, in which Kaine weakly denies that he’s going to run, then has a well-publicized meeting with President Obama at the White House, then says he’s thinking about it, starts fundraising, and then makes it official. The key for Democrats is to get a candidate quickly, somebody who can fundraise like there’s no tomorrow, and that’s somebody who can destroy George Allen in November of 2012, especially with Obama on the ticket. Given Kaine’s longstanding personal relationship with the president and that he’s the chair of the DNC, it’s hard to envision a more suitable candidate than him.
A Kaine-Allen race? That would be great. I’m not sure Allen could get the nomination but, Lawd, I hope he does.