While reminding folks that he's "not a 'Born Fundraiser'," Sen. Jim Webb sent out his first fundraising email since being elected to the United States Senate. He went on to discuss how he didn't enter the 2006 Senate campaign until February of that year and had to come from behind to win the primary and the general election year. He credits the large grassroots support that he had in his campaign for playing such an important role in his election and spells out how he has worked hard in the Senate in order to stay true to the values that inspired so many volunteers to work for him.
The email he sent out states that "the time has come for [Webb] to begin thinking seriously about what it will take if [he'll] decide to run for re-election in 2012." Despite the fact that this rhetoric leaves some room for him to decide not to seek re-election, the overall tone of the email definitely has left me believing that he's going to be running again. I imagine that the purpose of the email (besides the obvious wanting to raise some money for his campaign) is to address some of the speculation about whether or not he would actually seek re-election.
Webb's only half-way through his term and wouldn't be on the ballot again for almost three years, so some people might be questioning why he sent out the email now. In my opinion, the answer to the email's timing is fairly simple. There are several people in the Virginia Democratic Party who would like to run for higher office and the rumors are that Webb's Senate seat might be the next opening. These rumors have come about because Webb's been focusing on several issues that could hurt him during a campaign even though they need to be addressed (like reforming our criminal justice system) and his fundraising numbers have been incredibly low. There's also the plain and simple fact that Webb's known for not enjoying the campaign process.
Since it usually takes a significant chunk of time to build up the campaign and funds necessary to win in a statewide election, any potentially challengers would likely have to start floating the possibility of a candidacy relatively soon. This is especially the case now that we have three freshman Democratic members of Congress who are up for re-election next year and a potential Senate candidate would probably want to enhance their credibility by getting involved in helping them keep their seats. The timing of Webb’s email therefore could be to let his potential replacements on the Democratic side know that he’s not going to be giving up the seat so easily.
Referring to the “Karl-Rove-style politics” that George Allen and the Republican Party used against him in 2006, Webb also made it clear that he knows the Republicans will do whatever it takes to beat him in 2012. Perhaps in an attempt to start rebuilding the grassroots organization that helped him to victory in 2006, he pointed out that the Republicans already have some candidates in mind and are beginning to pull together resources. In order to make sure that he can run another effective campaign while also serving in the US Senate, he therefore wants to get an early jump on the competition so that the Republicans can’t try to use dirty tactics in an attempt to discredit him like they tried to do in 2006. This email can therefore also be viewed as letting the Republicans know that he’s going to continuing fighting for the best interests of Virginia and wants to make sure we have the best representation possible in the US Senate.
There is no doubt that Jim Webb has the respect of so many grassroots activists here in Virginia and his work in the US Senate has also gained him the support of members of the “establishment.” Nonetheless, it still is going to take a lot of money and effort if he wants to keep his seat. When you combine this with the fact that he’s known as someone who doesn’t necessarily enjoy campaigning, I think he’s smart to get things going early for his re-election campaign so that he can build it up gradually. With the fundraising email he sent out this morning, he has taken the first step in starting a campaign that will hopefully focus on his record and stance on the important issues facing Virginians.