George Allen Returns

Virginia Republican George Allen announced Monday that he'll seek his former Senate seat next year, setting up a potential rematch with Democratic Sen. Jim Webb.

"Today, I'm announcing my candidacy for the U.S. Senate," Allen said in his announcement video. "You know me as someone willing to fight for the people of Virginia. And I'd like the responsibility to fight for you again."

Allen also stressed what will be the focus of his campaign: cutting spending, creating jobs, balancing the budget, repealing Pres. Obama's health care reform and reducing energy costs.

Allen's decision to get the race was widely expected as he has taken several steps in the past few months to shore up support within the Virginia GOP.

Webb defeated Allen by less than 10,000 votes in 2006 when Democrats captured control of the Senate. Webb has provided few hints so far, however, about whether he'll run for reelection. Will Jenkins, a spokesman for Webb, said Monday that the Democrat will decide about the 2012 race by April.

"Right now, he remains focused on working with Senators from both parties to address the nation's greatest challenges--as he has since his first day in office," Jenkins said. "He will address the 2012 election cycle in the first quarter of this year after careful consideration and discussion with his family."

Even if Webb passes on the race, Allen won't have an easy road back to the Senate. Candidates are already lining up to challenge the former governor on the Republican primary, and they are positioning themselves to Allen's right. Tea Party activist Jamie Radtke is already in the race, and Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R) is also seriously considering the contest.

Allen's reelection bid--and career, at least temporarily--was derailed in 2006 when a video caught him derisively using the word "macaca" to a Democratic opposition researcher in the crowd. Up to that point, Allen was leading in the polls and expected to win re-election. He was also being floated as a serious 2008 presidential contender.

Indeed, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wasted no time reminding the public of the macaca incident - and his ties to the Republican establishment.

Despite those vulnerabilities, Allen starts off the race in a formidable position. Allen retains strong goodwill with nearly all of the state's Republican party establishment, and has the capability of raising significant money for a statewide campaign.