When Webb Walks?
“Go to the bank on [Virginia Democratic Sen.] Jim Webb not running in 2012,” a fellow White House correspondent whispered this to me during President Obama’s final news conference of last year on December 22. “He hates the job, hates the events he has to attend and will hate raising money for a tough re-election. And he’ll announce he’s out sometime before April.”
My colleague (who requested anonymity because of his many Virginia contacts) was not saying anything earth-shaking or even original. He was just a bit more adamant than other political observers in his belief that the 64-year-old Webb (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 14.67%) would return to writing best-selling novels rather than seek a second term.
“He has no love for ribbon-cuttings or the cocktail reception circuit,” the Washington Post wrote of Webb three days before anyconversation with my colleague. “Unlike most politicians, Webb does not appear drawn to crowds and human contact. He speaks regularly of his love for writing, a solitary pursuit.”
The Post went on to point out that as of September 30, Webb had $471,000 in his campaign account and that “of the 33 senators up for re-election in 2012, 23 have more cash in the bank than Webb.”
Whether the senator runs again or not, four Republicans have signaled they want to run for his seat: former Gov. (1993-97) and Sen. (2000-06) George Allen, who lost the seat to Webb in the closest Senate race of ’06; Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, who is closely identified with his county’s tough laws dealing with illegal immigration; State Delegate Bob Marshall, who narrowly lost the nomination for senator in ’08 and Jamie Radtke, leader of the Richmond Tea Party and onetime staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. All have records as strong conservatives.
In an alteration of the Republican picture, the party’s state central committee voted last year for a primary rather than a state convention to choose their Senate standard-bearer.
Because he is the lone candidate to have run statewide and because of great media interest in a possible rematch with Webb, the 58-year-old Allen is so far the only Republican to be tested in polls. A just-completed Clarus Research Group poll shows Webb leading Allen by a wafer-thin 41% to 40% among likely Virginia voters. A PPP poll shows Webb edging Allen by a slightly wider 49% to 45%.
Should Webb opt for retirement, the most-discussed possible Democratic successor is former Gov. (2005-09) Tim Kaine, now Democratic National Chairman. Other prospects include former one-term Rep. Tom Perriello (lifetime ACU rating: 18%), a hero among left-wing activists who lost his 5th District seat last year, and former Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who lost a primary for governor in ’09. Long a friend and political intimate of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the caustic McAuliffe has made it clear he prefers another crack at the statehouse in 2013 to a Senate run next year.
Some faces on congressional staffs and campaigns long familiar to conservatives are winding up in new places.
Patty Sheetz, who has won high marks for her performance in just about every job there is on a congressional staff, became chief of staff to stalwart conservative Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R.-Neb.) last year. Sheetz was press secretary to the late Rep. (1960-62, 1970-82) John Rousselot (R.-Calif.) and former Reps. (1980-88) George Wortley (R.-N.Y.) and also served as top aide to former Rep. (1978-92) Don Ritter (R.-Pa.) and Gil Gutknecht (1994-06) of Minnesota, conservative Republicans all. She also worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee and was legislative director for the U.S. Department of Commerce in George W. Bush’s administration.
Sheetz succeeds Kelly Lungren McCollum in Fortenberry’s office. McCollum is now chief of staff for freshman Rep. Morgan Griffith, who won the 9th District seat in Virginia that had been in Democratic hands since 1982.
Off Capitol Hill, Phil Cox has just been tapped as the new executive director of the Republican Governors Association by the RGA Chairman, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. As campaign manager for Bob McDonnell’s winning campaign for governor of Virginia in ’09, Cox blazed the trail for the GOP’s spectacular performance in the midterm elections last fall. In 2010, the University of Virginia graduate worked on the political staff of the RGA and helped orchestrate Republican pickups in several states, including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Cox, who has worked on more than 100 campaigns from statehouse races to governorships, succeeds Nick Ayres as RGA head. Should Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former RGA chairman, run for President in 2012, Ayres is considered likely to be his campaign manager.
A Veto-Proof Senate In ’12?
For those worrying that such conservative causes as repealing “ObamaCare” and making genuine cuts in spending will pass the House and die in the Senate, Americans for Tax Reform honcho Grover Norquist said in effect: “Be patient.”
In an analysis of the 2012 Senate elections in the Weekly Standard, Norquist emphasized that of the 33 Senate seats up in two years, “[On] the GOP side there are only ten seats at risk and only Scott Brown of Massachusetts (who has a campaign warchest of more than $6 million to go with a high popularity rating) and Olympia Snowe of Maine are running in blue states.”
Of the 23 Democratic senators facing the voters in ’12, Norquist said, “Hawaii’s Daniel Akaka is now 86 years old and that’s state’s very popular [former GOP ] Gov. Linda Lingle might well enter the fray. Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl will be 77 and California’s Dianne Feinstein will be 79.” He also pointed out that “Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is 70 and may well be opposed in the primary by the MoveOn forces that defeated him in the Democratic primary in 2006 because of his support for Bush’s policies in Iraq and forced him to run as an independent. Lieberman paid them back by denying them the public option on Obamacare and this act of revenge might attract another challenge from the left.”
Vulnerable Democratic senators cited by Norquist are Jon Tester (Mont.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Bob Casey, Jr. (Pa.), and Jim Webb (Va.)—all of whom come from states in which Republicans made major gains in 2010.
A net gain of 13 Senate seats for Republicans in 2012, and a “veto-proof” Senate? It can happen. Do the math.
Duty-Sharing in the Oregon Legislature
It took a while after November 2 to sort out the election results in Oregon. The race for governor took weeks to determine, with former Democratic (1994-2002) Gov. John Kitzhaber finally eking out a win over Republican Chris Dudley, onetime National Basketball Association great.
Close races for the state house of representatives also took a while to count. When the dust settled, the outcome was a true standoff: Republicans and Democrats each won 30 seats, splitting the 60-seat legislature down the middle.
So which party rules? They both do. Under a unprecedented arrangement, Republican Rep. Bruce Hanna and Democratic Rep. Arnie Roblan will be “co-speakers” and divide up the constitutional duties of overseeing the house. This “shared governance” arrangement will also apply to all House committees.
Yet More Switchers
In what is a continuing story around the South, five elected officials in Angelina County, Texas, announced last week they were switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican. The district and county clerks, tax assessor/collector, Precinct One Commissioner and Precinct 3 constable all made the switch, signing a statement that is fast becoming almost a mantra throughout the South: that the Democratic Party “no longer reflects our values and our conservative principles. It moved, we have not.”
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