Can George Allen Really Make a Comeback?

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After months of speculation, former Sen. George Allen formally announced his candidacy for the Senate seat he lost to Jim Webb in 2006. How will Allen--whose last campaign unraveled after video of him using the term "macaca" famously went viral--navigate a political landscape radically different from the one he left four years ago. From around the Web, a sampling of opinions about a potential Webb-Allen rematch, and what Allen needs to do to win back a skeptical GOP base:

  • Well-Timed  Slate's Dave Weigel says Allen's decision to announce his candidacy a full 22 months before election day was a shrewd tactical decision. It gives Allen time to win over the Tea Party wing of the GOP, which is inclined to be "skeptical about people who'd been in office in the Bush years." In a GOP primary fight, Weigel expects Allen's votes in favor of Bush-era budgets that added to the debt to be a bigger liability than the memories of Macaca. "Enough to drag him down to defeat? Possibly not. Enough to create uncertainty about who'll win?" It's a possibility.
  • Bigger Problems  Allen's 2006 campaign may be best remembered for the gaffe that made "Maccaca moment" part of the political lexicon, but as The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake explain, the blunder was indicative of larger problems with Allen and the inner-workings of the campaign. The "inability to immediately understand the damage done by the comment or quickly (and effectively) shut it down as an issue spoke" reflected a "broader hubris that had infected the incumbent" as he turned his attention away from Virginia and towards a possible 2008 White House bid. Allen "began to believe his own press," assuming he enjoyed a "glide path to reelection." If he wants to withstand a strong Tea Party primary challenge and unseat Webb, he'll have to show he's "committed to doing things differently--and better."
  • Frontrunner  National Journal's Jeremy Jacobs says Allen's name recognition alone makes him the GOP frontrunner, regardless of the shift in party ideology. "Allen starts off the 2012 race in a formidable position," writes Jacobs. "He retains strong goodwill with nearly all of the state's Republican Party establishment, and he has the capability of raising significant money for a statewide campaign."
  • Big Ticket  It's contingent on Allen winning the GOP primary and Webb making up his mind to seek another term, admits Politico's David Catanese, but a rematch would automatically become the must-watch race of the 2012 election cycle. As one of the "marquee match-ups in the country," the race would "take on heightened importance because Republicans need just four seats to seize the Senate majority." Allen, writes Catanese, must "inspire conservatives with innovative and small government themes that harken back to his days as governor" if he wants them to forget the disappointment of 2006.

Allen's announcement:

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