Crystal Ball: 2012 Senate race a ‘tossup’

Much uncertainty swirls around the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Virginia up for re-election in 2012 – first and foremost whether incumbent Democrat Jim Webb will even be in the running for re-election.

That uncertainty, and the changing political climate in the Commonwealth since Webb’s upset of George Allen in 2006 and Barack Obama’s win here in 2008, has University of Virginia political-science professor Larry Sabato rating the 2012 Virginia race a “tossup” 22 months out.

“If President Obama recovers and carries Virginia again in 2012, Webb – should he run – will probably win, since few Obama backers would vote for Allen. But if Obama loses Virginia, Webb or any Democrat is probably toast,” Sabato wrote in his weekly Crystal Ball report, released today.

Sabato is hearing what a lot of people have been talking about regarding Webb – that not even the senator’s top aides are sure what he will do with respect to 2012. That has led to speculation about another big-name in Virginia Democratic Party circles, Tim Kaine, the former governor and current chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The uncertainty on the Republican side comes in the form of the long list of names interested in the GOP nomination – starting with former senator and governor George Allen, who has come under surprising fire from Tea Party activists who believe Allen is tarred by perceptions of his close ties to the failed policies for former president George W. Bush.

Sabato still expects that Allen, if he were to run for the nomination, would win the Republican primary “handily.”

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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