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Carly Fiorina confirms it: she is considering challenging Sen. Tim Kaine

Presidential hopeful and former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina speaks at the Practical Federalism Forum hosted by American Principles Project held at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett, N.H., in October 2015. (Cheryl Senter/AP)

Carly Fiorina, the former GOP presidential candidate, is considering challenging Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) next year.

Her comments on a Portsmouth-based radio show popular among party activists marks the first time that the Fairfax resident has spoken publicly about getting back into politics since the November election.

"I'm certainly looking at that opportunity," she told host John Fredericks on Tuesday about a Senate bid. "It's a little early to be making that decision."

Fiorina and her husband moved to Lorton, in Fairfax County, in 2011 after a bruising loss in her bid to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

She ended her presidential campaign one year ago this month and briefly jumped onto the ill-fated campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) as his vice-presidential pick. In the months since, Fiorina has been helping other Republicans, particularly in Virginia, where she stumped for everyone from Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) to little-known candidates for state legislature.

Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket, will be seeking a second term in the Senate in 2018.

A former governor whose place on the Clinton ticket helped him build a national profile, Kaine has returned to the Capitol Hill as an outspoken critic of President Trump’s agenda.

Virginia was the only southern state that Clinton carried in November. All five statewide officeholders are Democrats, something Fiorina referenced in her interview.

“We [Republicans] should be realistic that is going to be a very, very tough race,” said the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive. “Virginia is a purple state. Virginia has two Democratic senators. The Democratic Party is going to throw everything they have at defending Tim Kaine’s seat.”

Other candidates are toying with running, as well.

Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host who supported Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in his 2014 ouster of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, confirmed on “Fox & Friends” last month that she is considering jumping into the race. Contacted by The Washington Post, she declined to comment further.

Although Brat stopped short of endorsing Ingraham, he said she would do well in the race and took himself out of contention.

“She’s got a huge personality, a huge following and the ability to lead the news cycle,” he said last week.

Republicans say that GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock would also be a top contender if she would risk giving up her northern Virginia seat to run. Through a spokesman, she declined to comment on her plans.

Former governor Jim Gilmore, who ran a failed presidential bid last year, and Del. Jimmie Massie (R-Richmond) are also expected to compete for the party nomination.

The 2018 field has been slow to coalesce in part because national groups are likely to focus resources on 10 Republican takeover opportunities in states that Trump won.

With a governor's race immediately following the presidential contest, Virginia voters have historically chosen a governor of the opposite party. The 2013 win by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) after President Obama's reelection was a rare exception.

If the pattern holds and a Democrat — Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam or former congressman Tom Perriello — wins this year governor’s race, Kaine could enjoy a boost, as well.

“I don’t think Republicans are going to give Tim Kaine a free pass, but Virginia has shown in recent federal races a trend toward Democrats,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, a political anaylst at the nonpartisan Inside Elections.

State GOP chairman John Whitbeck said the party is committed to ousting Kaine.

“Tim Kaine has shown that he’s far outside the mainstream of Virginia,” he said. “He’s effectively taken his mask off. He’s nothing more than a cookie cutter left-wing liberal.”