By Joseph Weber, The Washington Times
Virginia Republicans are eagerly eyeing a potential rematch between freshman Democratic Sen. Jim Webb and former GOP Sen. George Allen, who has posted strong numbers in early polls and has the backing of the party establishment in what could be one of the bellwether races of the 2012 cycle.
Mr. Webb’s upset victory in 2006 was hailed as a key blow by Democrats to turn the once strongly Republican-leaning state into a political battleground. Barack Obama’s victory in the state in the 2008 presidential race appeared to solidify the Old Dominion’s status as a swing state.
But Republicans have bounced back, recapturing the governor’s mansion in 2009 and knocking off three Democratic members of Congress in the November midterm elections. Mr. Allen, many Republicans believe, is poised to build on those gains.
Mr. Allen, a former governor before being elected to the Senate in 2000, “is Webb’s biggest nightmare,” said GOP strategist Tom Edmonds. “George Allen is in synch with the Virginia electorate. He also was a conservative long before the ‘tea party’ movement and one who doesn’t frighten Republicans or Democrats. Allen will be able to grab the attention of conservatives all over the country.”
A rematch isn’t a certainty: Mr. Webb has not committed to running for a second term, and Mr. Allen has not declared himself a candidate. But the Republican has stepped up his attacks on his successor, criticizing his recent votes supporting union organizing rights for some public-sector safety workers and against banning congressional spending earmarks.
Mr. Allen pointedly noted that Mr. Webb on those votes broke with his fellow Democratic senator from Virginia, Mark Warner.
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