Could Webb exit shake up GOP field?
While much has been made about the circus that Sen. Jim Webb‘s exit has made for Democrats in the 2012 Virginia U.S. Senate race, not much attention has been paid to the impact it could have on the Republican field. While two candidates have already forged ahead, not knowing if Webb was in or out, several more have been sitting on the sidelines waiting to make their move. In addition to those mulling a run, a new reality in the race may even prompt some even more prominent names to jump in.
Former Sen. George Allen didn’t seemed concerned about that possibility when I spoke to him just a few hours after he learned one time rival was out. “I don’t know how many may get into it,” Allen said about the Republican field. “All I know is that since we announced the support has been so encouraging.”
Allen, who enjoys the support of party loyalists, has had a difficult time capturing the emerging Tea Party influence in the Republican party. That has opened the door for new names and fresh faces like Jamie Radtke, the Tea Party activist from Chesterfield to emerge. In a statement shortly after Webb’s announcement, Radtke said his absence “presents the Republican Party and all Virginians with a great opportunity to change the direction of our country by presenting Virginia with a clear choice for their next Senator.”
Right now, Radtke has the alternative spotlight all to herself, but even she admits with the primary election more than a year away there is a much better chance that the field gets bigger, not smaller.
“Regardless of Sen. Webb’s decision, there always was the possibility that others would enter the primary,” Radtke said. “But we have been thrilled with the momentum we’ve been able to build.”
And while potential candidates like Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart and the outspoken Delegate Bob Marshall continue to flirt with the idea of running, could there be an even bigger name, not on anyone’s radar, be willing to take the rare opportunity to run for an open seat?
Former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder seems to thinks so. “Let’s see what the field portends,” Wilder said during a phone conversation yesterday. “Virginia is going to be incredibly pivotal in 2012 for Republicans and Democrats…I’m certain they will all come out.”
Wilder casually brought up the name Ken Cuccinelli in our conversation and said the two had recently had lunch. He said they talked about Webb’s future and the Senate race in general. Wilder said Cuccinelli did not express an interest in running himself. While the Attorney General is an example of the kind of electrifying name that could shake up the Senate race, his political spokesman Noah Wall told me in an email that he will not run for the seat.
Meanwhile Allen, shrugged off the idea that more competition could hurt for his chances. “(The voters) know my record, they know that I actually know communities and people throughout Virginia.”
And Radtke welcomed the challenge.
“I think Senator Webb’s decision is an exciting development, whether others enter the Republican primary or not, because it will really focus the attention on the primary, and on the choice between voting for the old Washington Establishment or for a new generation of conservative leadership,” she said.
You can see my full interview with former Senator Allen below. The full statement from Radtke responding to Sen. Webb’s decision not to run can be found after the jump.
Senate Candidate Jamie Radtke Statement Regarding Senator Webb’s Decision not to Seek Reelection “Open” Senate seat offers opportunity for new direction in Washington
“Senator Webb’s announcement today that he will not run for reelection in 2012 presents the Republican Party and all Virginians with a great opportunity to change the direction of our country by presenting Virginia with a clear choice for their next Senator.
“Senator Webb was a reliable vote for President Obama and Senator Harry Reid and their ruinous agenda.
“Now with the open seat, Virginians can choose between a new generation of principled conservative leadership or a return to a thirty-year politician who helped put America in our current mess.
“Twelve years ago George Allen ran for U.S. Senate pledging to work for a balanced budget, to reduce spending and to reduce the debt. Then Mr. Allen went to Washington and voted for spending measures that increased our national debt by $3.1 trillion and voted for $90 billion in earmarks. Now, 12 years later, George Allen is making the same promises again.
“George Allen must explain his record on deficit and pork barrel spending, as well as gun rights, abortion, and his endorsements of Republicans such as Arlen Specter. George Allen was part of the Washington establishment, and he still is.
“It’s time to send a principled conservative leader to Washington who will truly fight for Constitutionally limited government, fiscal restraint, free markets and virtue and accountability in government, rather than a career politician who says all the right things and does all the wrong things.”