Sabato on Allen’s Return

by Robert Costa

Former senator George Allen is back:

Former Sen. George Allen will announce today that he is seeking to reclaim the Senate seat he lost to Democrat Jim Webb in 2006.

Allen, a Republican, will e-mail a video to supporters in a “soft announcement” that will be followed by a more formal rollout at a later date, said a national Republican consultant who is familiar with Allen’s plans. The video is a way to “get out there and start the conversation,” the consultant said.

Larry Sabato, the University of Virginia professor and director of its Center for Politics, shares his take with National Review Online:

This will surprise no one. George Allen has been running for at least a year. He has spent almost all his adult life in politics, and he obviously misses the spotlight. Even more, he hated losing in 2006, not least because it put an end to his presidential ambitions. No doubt Allen wants revenge, and would like to either beat Jim Webb, or drive him into retirement after just one term.

But it’s not at all clear what will happen. First, to Allen’s surprise, not all Republicans have welcomed him back into the fray. Some see him as yesterday’s man. His votes for big spending during his one Senate term have generated Tea Party opposition. Still, he’ll be favored in the GOP primary next year.

Webb, Obama, and the economy are the keys to the general election. Will Webb run again? Everyone has an opinion but no one outside his family knows. As the incumbent, and one who has done quite a lot for a freshman senator, Webb would be the Democrats’ strongest candidate, despite his obvious distaste for glad-handing. If he doesn’t run, then DNC Chair and former Gov. Tim Kaine will be asked to run. If not Kaine, maybe one of the Democrats’ three remaining congressmen or one of three House members defeated in 2010 will step up.

If the economy recovers before 2012, then Obama will pour resources into Virginia—which he carried in 2008 with 52.6%, a better showing than in Florida or North Carolina. Obama won’t want to lose all his Southern states, and a big Virginia presidential turnout could produce substantial coattails for the Democratic nominee. After all, it is very hard to imagine many voters choosing a split-ticket of Obama and Allen.

But if Obama and the economy fare poorly in ’12, or if Virginia Democrats can’t get their act together quickly, then Virginia’s recent Republican trend could continue. George Allen might join the circle of politics’ comeback kids, such as Dan Coats and Jerry Brown. Plan on a long, hot, nasty, and expensive campaign.

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