Davis to Offer More Details on Whether He'll Run

By Amy Gardner and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) said last night that he will hold a news briefing Thursday to provide a more "definitive" picture of whether he will run for the U.S. Senate next year but that he still plans to wait until after the Nov. 6 election to make a final decision.

Late yesterday, several GOP officials said Davis would announce Thursday that he would not seek the Republican nomination. But the Fairfax County lawmaker said he's not ready to make such an announcement this week. He said he continues to "agonize" over the decision and will probably "agonize some more" Thursday.

"I don't really know what I'm going to do," he said. "I've got some pretty strong thoughts on it. We're planning to sit down after November to do some additional polling and additional surveying. I don't know that I'll be definitive on Thursday, but I'll certainly be more forthcoming."

Davis has been sending strong signals recently that he is unlikely to be a Senate candidate next year. One GOP official, who talked on condition of anonymity because Davis did not authorize him to speak, said Davis had all but made up his mind last week not to run and has told people as much. But in the past 24 hours or so, the source said, Davis has been having second thoughts about saying he is not running.

Another GOP official close to Davis thinks he is "heading in the direction" of not running but has not made a final decision. He has been under a lot of pressure from Republicans in the House to run for reelection, in part to keep the 11th District safe for the GOP.

During a breakfast speech last Tuesday at the National Press Club, Davis said he might be inclined to challenge Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) in 2012 instead of former governor Mark R. Warner, the only declared Democrat in next year's race.

"There are other races; this isn't the only shot," said Davis, according to the Hill newspaper.

Davis has been preparing for months and even years for a possible bid to replace U.S. Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.). But when Warner announced in late August that he plans to retire at the end of his term, the political terrain had shifted so much in Virginia that Davis immediately made clear that his candidacy was not at all certain.

Noting the unpopularity of President Bush, Davis has said several times that "you couldn't elect a Republican dogcatcher" at the moment. He had hoped that his moderate political views would make him competitive against Mark Warner.

But Davis is not assured of receiving the Republican nomination. The Virginia State Republican Central Committee opted this month for a convention instead of a primary, most likely giving the advantage to former governor James S. Gilmore III, a conservative who is also considering a Senate run. GOP conventions tend to draw more conservative party members. Primaries are open to all voters regardless of party affiliation.

In a telephone interview last night, Davis declined to confirm that he would pull out of the race Thursday, but he didn't deny it, either. He said there are strong pluses and minuses to running. He said it's never too late to jump into a convention, suggesting that he would keep his options open for a while longer.

"There are not a lot of advantages to getting into a convention early," he said. "What if Mark Warner is the nominee for vice president?"

Warner has said he is not interested in the vice presidency.

Davis will hold the briefing at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, he said.

Tim Craig reported from Richmond.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company