Picture This: Ben Affleck, Senator From Virginia
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.' "
'The Amazing Race' Family With the Million-Dollar Look
If the suits at CBS know what is right and good for business, they will make sure the Black family of Woodbridge wins this season's edition of "The Amazing Race," premiering tonight.
Oh. Whoops, our bad. Forgot it's a "reality" show. Whatever: These folks have the stuff unscripted stars are made of: A signature look (matching red, white and blue tie-dye), a groovy hobby (they all do taekwondo together!), magnificent cheekbones. Of all the family groups who competed in the bickerfest round-the-world race taped this summer, they traveled with the youngest children -- Kenneth, 11, and Austin, 8.
Totally adorable. Cannot wait for them to start fighting!
A two-teacher family -- Reggie, 42, teaches math at West Potomac High; Kimberly, 40, teaches fifth grade at Alexandria's Douglas MacArthur Elementary -- the Blacks could probably use the $1 million prize. But under a contractual vow of silence, they declined to comment, so we pestered the neighbors.
So . . . anything new with the Blacks? Like, a new Bentley in the driveway?
"They're doing things just like normal," said Wendy Labenow from next door.
Oh, come on! Little kids are able to keep a million-dollar secret?
"You'd be surprised," Labenow said. "They are very mature young men."
The Reliable Source Returns
The Reliable Source is back and double the fun with two new gossips. We will appear Tuesday through Friday and on Sunday. Got dish? Zip it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey, Isn't That . . .?
Jenna Bush, with a young man, checking into the spa at Four Seasons over the weekend for massage appointments . . .
Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. at the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses fashion show, showing off a newly slim physique in a tight-fitting Simon Cowell-style black T-shirt . . .
Diddy at a CBC after-party at Love in a gray velvet blazer and jeans. Girlfriend Kim Porter dazzled in gold and rhinestone cowboy boots.
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 resume, recent photo and a pen.
* Hitched: Sen. Ron Wyden, 56, and Nancy Bass, 44, co-owner of New York's legendary Strand bookstore. This is the second marriage for the Oregon Democrat, the first for Bass. The two were set up by friends last year when Bass visited Portland to check out the city's famed Powell's City of Books -- and yes, they book-browsed on their first date. Saturday's private ceremony was held in Cannon Beach, Ore.
* Reportedly hitched: Maybe it's true love. Maybe it's the coolest "Punk'd" stunt ever. Lacking any official confirmation, let's just say actress Demi Moore, 42, and actor Ashton Kutcher, 27, got married Saturday in Hollywood, according to People magazine and Us Weekly. Moore's ex, Bruce Willis, and their three daughters attended the "traditional Kabbalah" ceremony. This is Moore's third marriage and Kutcher's first.