The news that Sen. Jim Webb has chosen not to run for Senate next year against presumed GOP nominee George Allen — the guy he beat back in 2006 — is being received as nearly catastrophic for Dems’ chances of holding the seat. Maybe even terrible news for their shot at holding on to the Senate as a whole. But PPP has some interesting data which really makes me question that assumption.
The upshot is that Webb wasn’t a particularly popular senator. His approval ratings were in the mid-40s. And George Allen, notwithstanding the conservative resurgence of the last couple years, isn’t that popular either. PPP had his favorable at 40% and his unfavorable at 41% — hardly stellar. Seeing these numbers, a Webb-Allen race, rather than being a rematch of champions, sounds more like it might have been like a couple of over-the-hill heavyweights leaning on each other in the 15th round.
Prior to Webb’s announcement, former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) had said repeatedly that he was not interested in running. However, in PPP’s poll, he polled even better than Webb and was beating Allen by 6 points. And that was back in November. So pretty much at the nadir of Dems’ fortunes.
None of this is to say that it’s necessarily a Dem hold. But it does sound like maybe neither Webb nor Allen were looking like terribly strong contenders for the seat.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.