- Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 January 2011 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 26 January 2011 00:00
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It’s a quirk in the political psychology of the Commonwealth. Unlike other states, in Virginia, if a politician loses an election, either in their first bid, or in a shot for reelection, rather than come back for a second try, they usually quietly retire. There have been candidates who tried to buck this harsh reality of Virginia politics, but almost without exception, they haven’t been rewarded. We don’t do comebacks. At least that’s the conventional wisdom, but one candidate, who has never been that interested in what the conventional wisdom has to say, seems ready to try and buck the trend. Though he hasn’t said it officially George Allen is acting more and more like a candidate.
Allen has a long history in Virginia. He was a come from behind winner in his 1993 bid to be Governor and then was elected to the Senate in 2000. He was even taking the first steps in pursuing the Presidency in 2008. However, in the Democratic wave of 2006, and thanks to the infamous Macaca episode he lost his seat. It seemed like this was the end of George Allen’s career. If he followed the conventional wisdom he would put aside politics and like most former state chief executives or Senators would instead pursue more lucrative alternatives in the private sector. Or, at least that’s what’s supposed to happen. But this is George Allen and little about his career, no matter what you think of him, can be considered conventional.
Allen is aching for a rematch with his 2006 opponent and the political stars, for the moment, tend to be favoring the former Governor and Senator. The national mood, particularly after the drubbing the Democrats took in Virginia in 2010 is a positive sign for any Republican candidacy. 2012 looks promising. But Allen is being coy.
One reason is that he doesn’t want to become an immediate opposition target. And this includes some within his party. There are those who think Allen’s time has passed. And others, who utter, what is heresy to some, that he wasn’t all that effective a Senator. Delegate Bob Marshall, who narrowly lost to Jim Gilmore in seeking his party’s senate nod in 2008, thinks Allen’s day is past. As does Corey Stuart, the firebrand anti-illegal immigrant chair of the Prince William Board of Supervisors. But the reality is that this is George Allen. His depth of support in the GOP, in all factions, will overwhelm all comers. These two guys might as well go home.
There is also the question of whether Jim Webb will run again or not. His tenure has been admirable. The new GI Education Bill, long overdue, is a hallmark of his accomplishments. But, before this one-time Secretary of the Navy to President Reagan was a politician he was a writer and a filmmaker. After six years, rather than campaign, something he really doesn’t enjoy, he may decide he’s done his bit and retire. Allen, in the meantime, isn’t anxious to goad his one-time rival into declaring for a second term. So he is being unusually quiet.
Also, he isn’t anxious to start campaign 2012 until he feels comfortable that he can set the tone of the debate. In 2006, Allen, lost control of the messaging, lost the edge and lost the election. Allen, an old sports hand, knows that in any game, if you lose, you need to find out why, change your strategy, change your training regimen, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The dynamics of 2012 have yet to unfold. Jim Webb may or may not be the Democratic nominee. He may demur and perhaps former Governor Tim Kaine will take his place. That’s all to be determined. But one thing is pretty sure. George Allen is acting like a candidate who wants a rematch. Conventional wisdom be darned.