Jim Webb Wins Democratic Nomination In Virginia

Former Reagan SECNAV Jim Webb has won the Democratic nomination for the Virginia U.S. Senate seat occupied by Republican George Allen.

Virginia Democrats yesterday chose Vietnam War hero James Webb to challenge Sen. George Allen (R), siding with their party’s national leadership, which had declared the former Republican to be the only candidate with a chance to beat Allen in November. Webb’s support from Democratic senators such as 2004 presidential nominee John F. Kerry (Mass.) swamped the textbook campaign of his opponent, former lobbyist Harris Miller, who used $1 million of his own money to question Webb’s commitment to the Democratic Party’s core principles.


Webb, who was outspent 3 to 1, tapped into national anger over the Iraq war and a desire among Democrats to reach out to moderates who have drifted to the Republican Party over social issues and national security. Webb captured almost two-thirds of the vote across the populous suburban counties in Northern Virginia.

“In too many cases, our leaders are not equal to the challenges they face,” Webb said to a screaming crowd at the Crystal City Hilton as he accepted the nomination and promised new leadership in Washington. To Allen, he said: “I wonder, George, what leadership? It’s not leadership to follow this administration blindly 97 percent of the time.”

The springtime squabble between Democrats produced a near-record low turnout that a state election official described as “dismal.” Polling places across Virginia reported being empty for long stretches, even though voting was open to all of the state’s 4.5 million registered voters.

Webb now faces the challenge of raising millions of dollars in an attempt to oust Allen, a popular ex-governor who is considering a bid for the presidency in 2008. Allen has more than $7.5 million in the bank and a long history of winning in a state that usually votes for Republicans in federal contests. Allen, the son of a beloved Washington Redskins coach by the same name, became a darling among conservatives as governor in the mid-1990s, when he abolished parole, toughened education standards and changed the welfare system. He left office in 1997 with strong approval ratings and beat incumbent Charles S. Robb (D) in the 2000 Senate race.

Allen’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, said the Republicans look forward to running against a “very fractured, divided Democratic Party” and “having John Kerry . . . campaign with Mr. Webb.”

I expect Allen to win, although it will be a much tougher contest against Webb than it would have against Miller.

It is interesting, though, that Webb, a Republican on most issues other than the Iraq War, beat out a candidate who is a true blue Democrat. It’ll be interesting to see the exit polls and other post mortems to see how much Republican cross-over voting there was, given that there was no GOP primary. One wonders, too, how much of said cross-over voting was for Miller in hopes of giving Allen the weakest possible candidate.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    Notice how Webb got a lock on the NoVA vote. I wonder how many were from crossover Republican voters? NoVA is turning from a solid GOP stronghold (with the exception of Arlington County) to solidly Blue. I expect Webb will spend a lot of time in the Norfolk area trying to get crossover military votes.

  2. lily says:

    The Kansas Democratic party has been picking up elected officials from the moderate Republicans, too. I think it’s seven so far, including a former party chair.

  3. Stevely says:

    NoVA is a “solid GOP stronghold?” *NoVA*? Since when?

  4. Anderson says:

    The only thing I remember about Webb is that “600-ship Navy” nonsense. But Dems can’t be choosers, these days.

    Re: JJ’s larger point, I think “the war” is such a polarizing issue because Bush has made it one.

    Treating Dems as traitors, violating laws and treaties against torture & surveillance, operating secret prisons, and attempting an unconstitutional power grab on “commander-in-chief” grounds … whether the war was right or wrong, it didn’t have to be like that. Bush, Cheney, and Rove made it that way.

  5. James Joyner says:


    I think you’re partly right on that score, although the war was already incredibly divisive even with the Democratic primaries in late 2003/early 2004–before most of those issues surfaced.

    It’s hard to argue that much of what Bush has done here is unprecedented when one looks at what Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR did in their wars. The difference is that this one is more controversial, perhaps mostly owing to a less deferential public and the multimedia era.

  6. So Lieberman, solid democrat on all issues except for the war = bad democrat.

    Webb, solid republican on all issues except for the war = good democrat.

    Ah the joys of such a delightfully nuanced party.

  7. legion says:

    So Lieberman, solid democrat on all issues except for the war = bad democrat.

    Webb, solid republican on all issues except for the war = good democrat.

    Ahhhh, but is Webb considered a ‘bad republican’?

    And btw, Lieberman isn’t considered a bad dem for his war support. It’s due to his willingness (enthusiasm, even) to bad-mouth other dems for for any percieved advantage. He can’t just disagree; he’s got to attack. The man has no loyalty to us, why should we be loyal to him?

  8. Legion,
    I think we can take as given that someone running as a democrat can’t be considered a good republican.

    BTW, given that Webb is trailing Allen by double digits in all the polls I’ve seen (latest was 50 to 30) and that Allen has been at the magic 50 or better every time except for once at 49), why is Webb considered such a danger to Allen?

  9. DC Loser says:

    Stevely – Fairfax, Prince William, Loundoun, all previously strongholds of Republicans. Look at their congressional representation – all GOP. But the last gubernatorial election, Tim Kaine (D) got the majority of all those counties. How did that happen? Local issues – traffic, congestion, overbuilding, etc.

  10. Brian says:

    Yetanotherjohn-It’s not so much that Webb is seen as a threat to beating Allen. It’s that Allen is going to win by 10-20 points instead of the 30-40 he would beat Harris by. And that means the GOP must spend valuable resources on this race, just in case.