The Reliable Source

Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
The Washington Post
Tuesday, September 27, 2005

If you liked him as Bennifer . . . you'll love him as Benator!

That's the hot new idea being tossed around by Virginia Democrats, who are desperately searching for a big name to challenge the reelection bid of rising GOP star Sen. George Allen next year, now that outgoing Gov. Mark Warner has ducked out.

Why, who should happen to be pondering a move to Thomas Jefferson country but a certain square-jawed media magnet with a taste for liberal politics and millions to spend on it . . . Ben Affleck! Star of "Gigli" and the J.Lo tab romance, now happily settled with "Alias" star Jennifer Garner.

The couple, expecting their first child, have been shopping for real estate around Charlottesville. British tabloids claim it's a done deal; we will only go so far as to report that they checked out at least one country estate a few weeks ago.

It was about that time that party officials started batting Affleck's name around. "It's spread pretty widely, at least in the political underground," University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, Virginia's premier pundit, told Michael Shear, The Post's Richmond correspondent.

Another name on the wish list: blockbuster legal-thriller writer John Grisham. But the central Virginia farmhouse owner, who gives generously to Democrats and did a stint in the Mississippi legislature, has brushed off past overtures, sources say.

In truth, the Dems are less concerned with beating Allen than slowing him down. Both he and Warner are eyeing the 2008 presidential race.

Affleck spokesman Ken Sunshine said the rumors are baseless, though "he would be a superb candidate for public office in the future. Right now, he's very busy directing his first feature movie for Disney, 'Gone, Baby, Gone.' "

This Just in . . .

  • First lady Laura Bush will scream "MOVE THAT BUS" this morning in Biloxi, Miss. Okay, probably not. But she will tape an episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" at the Biloxi Community Center, where she'll meet with Hurricane Katrina evacuees. The episode will air in December.
  •  Want to breathe the same air as Nicole Kidman for a day or two? Producers of her new movie "The Visiting," filming here and in Baltimore for the next 45 days, are looking for extras. To try out, show up at 10 a.m. Saturday at One Judiciary Square with résumé, recent photo and a pen.

  • Hey Isn't That . . . ?

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