Webb Victory Poses Dilemma for Warner

June 20, 2006 · 12:02 AM EDT

Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb (D) won the Democratic nomination in Virginia and will take on Sen. George Allen (R-VA) in the general election. But former Gov. Mark Warner (D) may have a tough decision to make in the coming months.

Webb rode to victory on the backs of Democratic voters in Northern Virginia and with the help of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV), and a handful of other senators from all over the country. But Warner wisely maintained his neutrality in the race between Webb and Democratic activist Harris Miller.

Now that a nominee has been chosen, Warner must decide how much of his own political capital he is willing to put on the line in the face of a potential 2008 presidential bid. Warner effectively used his popularity after one term in the governor’s mansion to pull fellow Democrat Tim Kaine across the line in last November’s gubernatorial election. But Allen will be a much tougher foe than Jerry Kilgore (R) was.

While a majority of Democrats in the Commonwealth believe Webb is their best hope to unseat Allen in November, Webb’s task is still decidedly uphill against the Republican incumbent.

Of course Warner will endorse and back Webb in the race, even though the Senate nominee opted to withhold a potential 2008 endorsement for his fellow Virginian on NBC’s Hardball. But if Warner invests significant time and energy into the race and helps Webb defeat one of the Republicans’ top 2008 presidential contenders, it could vault the former governor ahead of his rivals going into 2007. But if Webb is viewed as “Warner’s candidate” and loses to Allen, he would remain with the rest of the pack.

This item first appeared on Political Wire on June 16, 2006.