I asked election augur Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics, whether Sen. Jim Webb’s announcement that he won’t stand for reelection in 2012 changes the game in Virginia.
“I really haven’t changed on this one at all,” Sabato wrote in response. “Virginia Senate is likely to be a presidential coattail race. If Obama can come back and win in Virginia a second time, he’ll carry in any strong, well-funded Democrat for the Senate seat.”
Emphasis on the “strong, well-funded Democrat” bit.
“The Democrats have to find one, and that may be their problem. Tim Kaine will have the right of first refusal. If he says no, I’m not sure whom they will choose, maybe one of the current or just defeated congressmen,” Sabato says.
And what if Obama and the Democrats can’t bounce back from electoral defeats in Virginia in 2009 and 2010? Then, says Sabato, “both the GOP nominee for president and the Republican nominee for Senate should win.”
“My guess is, regardless, there won’t be much split-ticket voting in 2012. That’s true in Virginia, and it may also hold true for some competitive Senate races in other states.”
On the Republican side, Sabato says, “Allen is the presumptive nominee, but he has a Tea Party opponent, and we’ve learned not to ignore them.”