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James Webb Complicates George Allen's '08 Plans

By John McIntyre

Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb has seriously complicated Senator George Allen's plans to run for President in 2008. With John McCain and Rudy Giuliani dominating the early GOP 2008 polls, George Allen had moved into position as the leading conservative candidate running for president and because of that distinction he was increasingly seen as an early frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

Mark Warner's decision to pass on a head to head match up against Allen to focus on his own run for the White House was seen as a break for Senator Allen, clearing the path for Allen to begin looking ahead toward 2008. However, Warner's void left the Democratic field wide open and James Webb is now in a position to create quite a few problems for Senator Allen - not the least of which is that Webb has a better shot at beating Allen than Warner.

An Allen-Warner race would have been a battle of two heavyweight candidates and would have been similar to the 1996 Kerry-Weld battle in Massachusetts. Kerry won that campaign not because he was a better candidate than Weld, but because he was a Democrat in Massachusetts. In an Allen-Warner match up, Allen would have won because the race would have turned into a standard Republican vs. Democrat kind of battle, which would have left Allen holding all the high cards because of the Republican leanings in the sate.

An Allen-Webb face off is a whole different ball game and gives Democrats an opportunity to put a safe GOP seat into play. Webb still has to beat Harris Miller in the Democratic primary, but the trend in this cycle has been with Democrats going with the stringer general election candidate and Webb certainly in more of a threat than Miller.

James Webb is the type of candidate Democrats desperately need, and he has an appeal to the exact voters (middle class whites, concerned about national security) Democrats have been steadily losing the last 30 years. Webb is a 1968 graduate of the Naval Academy, winner of the Navy Cross and former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. He is a Zell Miller/Andrew Jackson type of Democrat, (the exact opposite of North Carolina's John Edwards) and is in a position to credibly get to the right of Allen on national security issues. Webb is a virulent critic of the Iraq War, but he will in no way be confused with the anti-war left and would be in a unique position for a Democrat to go on the offensive against Allen.

Senator Allen still remains the solid favorite in this race because he is a formidable candidate in his own right and Virginia is a strong Republican state. But if Webb does get the Democratic nomination, Allen will have to put his 2008 ambitions on hold and take care of 2006 Virginia business first.

John McIntyre is the President and co-founder of RealClearPolitics. Email:

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