Let us quickly mourn the end of Jim Webb's political career before moving on to the horse race stuff. Webb--the burly war hero Democrats recruited to run for the Senate in 2006 because he was manly enough to oppose the Iraq war without being called a sissy--announced he won't run for reelection Wednesday, his birthday. The Virginia senator's major accomplishment was passing the new G.I. Bill.
Webb wanted to get more benefits for veterans and to reform the prison system, but was only successful with the former. "He obviously cared less about politicking than almost anyone else with his level of prominence," Slate's Dave Weigel . In fact, the senator sort of gave up on fundraising in the middle of last year. And he hated the year-long health care debate, saying it killed the credibility of the "Reid-Pelosi-Obama trio." Weigel calls him "a man who passionately cared about ending the war in Iraq and was guardedly optimistic about making the economic playing field flatter, then got to Washington and discovered how much more he liked being a writer."
So now Webb is going back to that career. Wonkette's Jack Stuef notes that he appears to be moving into--"you'll never guess"--the private sector, for what sounds a lot like a lobbying job. "How original," says Stuef. "Yeah, that sweet lobbyist money is definitely worth forcing (former Sen.) George Allen on this country for another six years. America understands. Jim Webb got to get paid."
The American Spectator's W. James Antle, III says Webb could have been great:
It was understandable that he was a dependable vote against George W. Bush, but when the Barack Obama was elected Webb had an opportunity to become an influential senator by compiling a more independent voting record. He didn't take it. Instead he entered this year between a rock and a hard place: Virginia is inching back to the right but Webb, a lousy fundraiser, was going to need the liberal netroots to raise campaign cash for him. So tacking to the right, even in a too little, too late fashion, became impossible for him.
Who will replace him? Probably former Gov. Tim Kaine, who was fairly popular when he left office a little more than a year ago and is actually polling pretty well against likely Republican candidate George Allen. Chris Cillizza and Ed Morrissey think Democrats will have a tough time holding onto the seat; Weigel and Josh Marshall think they won't. And Nate Silver thinks what matters most is whether the Democratic candidate gets in the race soon enough to raise a lot of money.