Things just got a lot harder for Democrats.
First-term Senator James Webb announced on Wednesday he will not run for re-election in Virginia next year, making Republicans the early favorite to recapture the seat the Democrat narrowly won in 2006.
The decision by Webb, an author and a former secretary of the Navy, set off a celebration among Senate Republicans and a scramble to find a replacement among Democrats with no clear good options.
The name most frequently mentioned was former Governor Tim Kaine, head of the Democratic National Committee, who says he has no interest in the seat. Other possibilities among Democrats include former Congressman Tom Periello, who lost in November after one term, former Congressman Rick Boucher and former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe.
Republicans were gleeful at the turn of events. Former Senator George Allen, who lost a close battle with Webb in 2006 after his famous “macaca” moment, already has signed up for another shot. Other Republicans are expected to enter the race as well.
Democrats, meanwhile, face a potential free-for-all.
“Democrats will have great difficulty finding an electable candidate for this open seat,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the Republican Senate campaign committee. “We can only hope that Democrats succeed in recruiting President Obama’s number one cheerleader in Washington — Tim Kaine.”