I guess I may be swimming against the tide on this one but I don't think Jim Webb's retirement is that bad for Democratic hopes of keeping his seat. It's not good news either but I really see it as a push. Here's why:
-Webb simply was not an unusually popular Senator. We have consistently found his approval rating to be in the low 40s. Our last survey had it at 43%, which is the exact average number we've found for all Senators we've polled on in the last seven months. Webb had almost no appeal across party lines- an 8% approval rating with Republicans. He had not really built at all on the support he received in his narrow 2006 victory.
-Tim Kaine has said he won't run but obviously it's a whole new ballgame now and in November we actually found that he would do better than Webb against Allen, leading him by six points and getting to 50%. Kaine would start out every bit as a strong candidate as Webb.
-There seems to be a lot of hand wringing that if Kaine doesn't run there's no clear well known Democratic candidate to step into the mix. Well big deal. Ron Johnson's name recognition in Wisconsin at this time 2 years ago would have been under 5%. Kay Hagan's name recognition in North Carolina at this time 4 years ago would have been under 5%. And I bet one Jim Webb's name recognition would have been under 5% at this time 6 years ago. There's no reason to think that someone who's currently not well known couldn't prove to be every bit as strong a candidate as Webb was in 2006...or perhaps even stronger.
-And perhaps the most important thing is that Allen is not exactly a juggernaut. 40% of voters have a favorable opinion of him, 41% have an unfavorable one. You're not going to find yourself blowing anyone out of the park with those kinds of numbers.
24 hours ago Virginia looked like a toss up. And Jim Webb or no Jim Webb, I think it still does.