Webb – Allen Rematch in 2012?

Virginian Republicans have heard of George Allen and not Eric Cantor, Ken Cuccinelli, Bill Bolling, Tom Davis, or Bob Marshall.

PPP’s Tom Jensen reports that “Virginia Republicans want Allen.”

Virginia Republicans overwhelmingly want George Allen to be their candidate for the Senate in 2012. 46% say he’d be their pick with the second (and unlikely) choice of Eric Cantor falling all the way back at 18%. 16% would like Ken Cuccinelli and then there’s very little support for the remaining options given- 4% for Bill Bolling and Tom Davis and only 2% for Bob Marshall.

The desire for Allen to be the nominee spans the ideological divisions of Virginia Republicans. Conservatives want him by a 47-18 margin over Cantor and moderates do as well by a 43-20 spread. Allen performed the best of the Republicans tested against Jim Webb and Tim Kaine in polling we released yesterday so this appears to be one case where the candidate the GOP base wants the most is also their most electable possibility.

Another way of reading these results:   Virginian Republicans have heard of George Allen and not Eric Cantor, Ken Cuccinelli, Bill Bolling, Tom Davis, or Bob Marshall.

  • Cantor is a prominent member of the House Republican leadership.  But hardly a household name.
  • Cuccinelli, who was an obscure state senator before being elected as Attorney General last November, is best known for filing a lawsuit against ObamaCare’s individual mandate.
  • Bolling is in his second term as lieutenant governor.  Despite my having lived in Virginia the whole time, I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, much less tell you anything he’s done.
  • I only know Davis because he was my Congressman until his retirement four years ago.
  • And Marshall is a longtime member of the House of Delegates who singular achievement, apparently, is that he owns over 2000 books.

While there’s plenty of time for Cuccinelli or Bolling to establish name recognition if they want it, I’d say Allen is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination.  He’s well liked, macacca flap and penchant for Confederate paraphernalia notwithstanding.

The more interesting question is whether Jim Webb actually wants to run for another term.  He’s something of a loose cannon and doesn’t play very well with others.   Being one of a hundred senators may not suit him well.

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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The other Republican name I’ve heard mentioned as a possibility is Corey Stewart, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. But he would seem to have even bigger name recognition issues than the others.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Speaking as an outsider with no knowledge of Virginia politics, running Allen again sounds loopy to me.

    Nonetheless, it does sound a bit like a no-lose situation for Virginia Republicans. Webb is probably doing as good a job at looking after their interests as most Republican candidates would.

  3. Tano says:

    If not Webb for the Dems, I imagine Tim Kaine would be a very strong candidate.

  4. @Dave,

    Webb’s victory over Allen in 2006 was only by a 9,329 vote margin, and that was in a very bad year for Republicans. Despite his mis-steps in that campaign, Allen remains popular in the Virginia GOP and he was generally well-regarding statewide while he was Governor and Senator.

    A rematch isn’t as dumb an idea as it sounds, I think. If not Allen, it would seem to me that the smartest candidate for the GOP would be Governor McDonnell, who can’t run for re-election in 2013 anyway. He’s got solid job approval, and he performed very well in the DC suburbs when he ran for Governor. Since our Lt Governor is also a Republican and likely nominee in 2013, McDonnell stepping aside if he wins wouldn’t be a problem. McDonnell has shown no interest in running.


    If Webb doesn’t run for some reason (I think he will) then Kaine would be the most likely Democratic nominee, I think

  5. Trumwill says:

    The upshot to an Allen return is that Webb’s victory over him decimated what I think was a quite likely Allen GOP presidential nomination in 2008. That would have been an ugly, ugly race. So hats off to Webb (and SR Sidarth) for preventing that. On the other hand, maybe Allen would have blown it in some other way in ’08. Sure seemed like the pieces were falling his way and there was a definite vacuum that he would have filled.

    On the actual subject of the post, there’s plenty of time between now and 2012 for alternatives to become better known within the state. Smart money would probably be on Allen… but I wouldn’t bet very much.

  6. I think the interesting wild card will still be Del. Bob Marshall. He almost defeated former governor Jim Gilmore at the GOP state convention in 2008 and with the rise of the tea party movement, I think they could possibly catapult Marshall to victory and paint Allen as a person of the establishment in both the commonwealth and in Washington. Also, should Marshall decide to run, this would put Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in a very interesting position. The hard core tea party followers in Virginia adore Cuccinelli and he had a very strong relationship with Bob Marshall in the legislature, even though they were in different houses. I think Cuccinelli will back Marshall, if Marshall makes the run and that will turn this whole race upside down. It will definitely be fun to watch, no matter what your party affiliation may be.