Near as I can see, its clear that Jim Webb has won the Democratic primary and will challenge George Allen in November. With 80% in, Webb is up 53% to 47%. The numbers should go up or down a bit, but it should stay around about here.
First of all, let me say that I was wrong in predicting Miller would win. I'll gladly eat that crow, because I'm also thrilled that Webb is the challenger. I mean, he is basically a Republican.
Here's how I think this race will shake out.
For Allen To Win:
George Allen needs to stay on message, and make this election about his entire record rather than just one single issue. Webb will attempt to make this a refferendum on Bush and Iraq. Allen, instead of shrinking from defending Iraq like Democrats think, needs to champion Iraq, especially with the news of Zarqawi's death and the formation of a full Iraqi government. Allen needs to hit the pavement hard, preaching his populist conservativism: a mix of tough law & order conservatism with a flair for the theatrics that has won him legions of supporters. Basically, Allen needs to be Allen. He needs to exploit his opponents weakness as a candidate, meet every one of Webb's rhetorical challenges. Webb is bright, he rolls his sleeves up like he's a regular guy, and will work hard at discrediting Allen.
For Webb To Win:
Disaster in Iraq. Thats it. Webb will only win if Iraq goes to hell in a hurry, because thats the only issue that makes him a Democrat. I did a long post on Webb's views on politics, and most of his positions, particularly on education and immigration, mirror those of Allen and the Republicans. He has basically stayed mum on issues like abortion and judicial nominees. He needs to answer those these questions, like this statement from the WaPo:
But since announcing his candidacy he seems to have given scant time and attention to issues ranging from education to tax policy to immigration, as if the cachet of his military past excuses him from having to master the pressing questions of the present -- not the best trait for a candidate for the Senate. Mr. Webb's somewhat strident populism on trade policy tends toward xenophobic sloganeering and business-bashing. And while he is right to focus concern on the widening disparities of Americans' income and wealth, his ideas about the problem's causes and possible antidotes are sketchy.
Webb wants to win this election by keeping quiet and wearing his medals. The reason Webb gets so much attention is because of his war record. Nothing else. Webb will also need to bring back in valuable state resources taht have been abandoned since Chuck Schumer came out for Webb. A tough gamble. Prominent Democrats like Don Beyer and Henry Marsh are going to need appeasing from Webb, the ex-Republican. To beat George Allen, Webb will need support from both state and national leaders. Because if he can't break 47%, the national team will pack-up and leave, and if the state team isn't there, Webb is finished.
This will be a tough election, but Webb has an awful lot of work ahead of him. He has to bring in distrustful Miller supporters, many of whom in the state are longtime supporters of Mark Warner--like Beyer. The Warner Wing, as I call them. Webb will also have to reconcile the black vote, who might have a tough time accepting Webb, a former Reagan acolyte. Allen has spent the last 5 years working to build some kind of support in the black community, and he has as good a chance as any GOPer has ever had to make a dent.
Remember, this is George Allen. Not benchwarmers like Mark Earley and Jerry Kilgore. This is George Allen, the ex-govenror who beat Mary Sue Terry when he was 30 points down in 1993, and who defeated the popular 2-term senator and ex-governor in Chuck Robb in a year (2000) that was not kind to GOP Senate candidates. Allen can win the tough elections, and has a proven record that has been endorsed by the people of this commonwealth. Welcome to the big time, Mr. Webb, you have a lot of work ahead of you.