Are Webb and Miller relevant?
Earlier this week, I noted how both primary canddiates had very low marks in both favoribility and infavoribility, suggesting that most people are either not familiar with them or otherwise know very little about them. And people expect these two to challenge Senator Allen? The primary is just under two weeks away, and yet, if there is a turnout of 5%, it can be called a success. If James Webb and Harris Miller cannot excite anyone outside the base right now, how can they possibly be expected to beat George Allen? It is no secret that seemingly hopeless races tend to turn out that way, with turnout for the general elections even being lower. Senator Allen, while perhaps not the most popular Senator in America, still enjoys some decent approval ratings, and would place at least a formidable challenge in any race he entered.
What good can a race like this do for Virginia Democrats then? Well, even without a popular candidate, some Democrats have gotten very excited, and this excitement may produce some momentum for them. The "big mo" will be very important because Senator Allen very likely has two elections coming up in the next three years. George Allen will likely win in November (barring any catastrophic changes), but damage will be done, and with primaries and potentially a general election for the Presidency to follow, any attacks made on Allen this election cycle could be remembered for '08. If George Allen is the presidential candidate in two years, he will almost certainly need to win Virginia, as it is both a key red state from the last two presidential elections and it is his home state. And unlike this year, even a weak presidential candidate for the Democrats will still produce a stiff challenge, as such a competitor would make for a much stronger candidate than Miller or Webb, and as Allen will be continually linked with President Bush. Attacks on Allen that could become regular for a period of over two years will be hard to overcome, and even relative unknowns like Harris Miller and James Webb can start such a trend.
And I think this is even understood by Democrats at the national level. They believe that James Webb will be able to cut into George Allen, even more so than Harris Miller. As Webb worked in the Reagan administration, is a former Republican, and served with distinction in the Vietnam War, he likely will appear to have some solid ground to challenge George Allen, even as Webb will likely not be able to beat him. To the Democrats holding higher positions though, this may be what they are wishing for. They may be fully cognizant of Allen's likely retention of his seat, but a weakened Allen will be an easier prey by the next presidential election, all the better for Democrats looking at the White House.
Mind you, by no means do I believe that Senator Allen should slack off in this election. On the contrary, he should treat this race like all others; that is, it will be the hardest campaign he will ever have to fight. A decisive victory will be necessary if he wishes to move to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Senator Allen is not only fully capable of maintaining his seat, but even a big favorite, and both Harris Miller and James Webb should fade into obscurity once more by December.
UPDATE 11:30 PM: Jim Hoeft at Bearing Drift notes that much of the negativity, rather counterproductively, is directed between Miller and Webb, and how the attacks on Miller, mostly being from bloggers such as Raising Kaine, could actually hurt James Webb's chances.
UPDATE 2 6/3 6:25 PM: Virginia Centrist disagrees. I might note that it seems likely that primary voters may be more likely to read these blogs then people who will note vote on June 13th, and that high levels of negativity by bloggers may prove to be a turn-off to them.