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Virginia Sen. Webb won't run for reelection, leaving Democrats looking to Kaine
Allen said that he respects Webb's decision and that he "did not enter into this race to run against any one person, but to fight for the families of Virginia to improve their opportunities in life."
Jamie Radtke, former chairman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation, is also seeking the GOP nomination. Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) has said he is considering a run, as is Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.
For 2012, Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D) said, "the strongest [Democratic] candidates would be Tim Kaine, Tom Perriello and Rick Boucher, probably in that order."
Rep. Gerald Connolly (D) agreed that Kaine is the leader of the pack. "He has some electoral magnetism that would make him the instant front-runner on either side," he said.
In a statement, Kaine praised Webb for his service and declared himself "confident" of a Democratic victory in Virginia next year. But he did not directly address whether he might seek the job.
Webb has been an idiosyncratic figure on Capitol Hill - someone who never seemed to embrace the more political and personal aspects of the job such as raising money and attending ceremonial events. He took in just over $12,000 in the fourth quarter of 2010 and finished the year with $445,000 in the bank, less than nearly every other senator facing a tough race in 2012.
Running for reelection would have required Webb to ramp up his fundraising quickly. He and Allen spent a combined $25 million in their 2006 contest, while Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) burned through $12.5 million in his successful 2008 campaign.
Several Democratic sources suggested that Kaine would run only if Obama asked him to. It's not clear whether the president will do so, although he and Kaine have a long and close relationship.
Perriello, who served one term before losing his Charlottesville-based seat to Robert Hurt (R), is the favorite of many activists on the left; a "Draft Perriello" petition was already online and gaining signatures Wednesday. But some in the party privately argue that his profile is too liberal and that his name not known well enough statewide to win. Perriello did not return a call seeking comment.
Boucher, meanwhile, intrigues some Democrats because he held a Republican-leaning seat in southwestern Virginia for nearly three decades before falling to Republican Morgan Griffith. Boucher ended his 2010 campaign with $700,000 in the bank, which could form a substantial down payment for a Senate bid. Boucher did not respond to a request for comment.
Regardless of their eventual candidate, Democrats hope that having Obama atop the ballot in 2012 will drive their voters back to the polls.
"I think it's helpful," said Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D). "One of the things that hurt last year was the fact that turnout was so miserable."
Staff writers Rosalind S. Helderman, Anita Kumar, Mike DeBonis and Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.