For those who hoped to see a rematch in Virginia of the 2006 Senate race that pitted Democrat Jim Webb against then-Sen. George Allen, a Republican, disappointment abounds with Sen. Webb's announcement Wednesday that he won't run again.
Some observers had guessed that the feisty Webb might run, seeing re-election as a personal challenge after Allen's recent announcement that he would seek the seat Webb took from him.
But Webb, a former Republican and Reagan era Navy Secretary, had raised very little money for a 2012 re-election bid. That suggested to some that he was leaning against a run.
Webb's decision to be a one-and-done senator raises the likelihood of a clash of Virginia titans featuring Allen, once a popular governor as well as senator, and Tim Kaine, another popular politician and former Virginia chief executive.
Kaine, head of the Democratic National Committee, hasn't said publicly that he's in the race.
But Webb's decision means Kaine will likely have much more pressure placed on him to enter the contest. That could give Democrats a better chance of holding onto the seat and maintaining their slim hold on the Senate.
Democrats have to defend 23 seats and the two seats occupied by independents compared with the Republicans' 11 seats up in 2012. A higher percentage of the Democratic seats are viewed as at risk compared with the Republicans.
The 2012 situation for Democrats in terms of their continuing in the Senate majority doesn't change greatly just because of Webb's decision. Webb was considered vulnerable by many political observers.
He barely eked out a victory over Allen in 2006 in what was a good year for Democrats and a major gaffe by Allen. That was the year the Republican infamously singled out an Indian American campaign worker at an event and referred to him as "macaca" which many viewed as a racial slur.
It was one of the first times a YouTube video helped sink a major political campaign.
In his statement. Webb said:
Five years ago this week, on February 8, 2006, I announced my intention to run for the United States Senate. We had neither campaign funds nor a staff. We were challenged in a primary, and trailed the incumbent in the general election by more than 30 points in the polls.
Over the next nine months we focused relentlessly on the need to reorient our national security policy, to restore economic fairness and social justice, and to bring greater accountability in our government. I will always be grateful for the spirit and energy that was brought into this campaign by thousands of loyal and committed volunteers. Their enthusiasm and sheer numbers were truly the difference in that election.
It has been a great and continuing privilege to serve in the United States Senate. I am very proud of my talented and dedicated staff, which has worked tirelessly to resolve the issues on which I based my candidacy, and to protect the interests of all Virginians in this national forum. Among other contributions we have given our Post- 9/11 veterans the best GI Bill since World War Two; we have taken the lead in reforming our criminal justice system; we have led the way toward stronger relations in East and Southeast Asia; and we have been a strong voice in calling on China to act more responsibly in the world community. We will continue to work on these and other issues throughout the rest of my term.
However, after much thought and consideration I have decided to return to the private sector, where I have spent most of my professional life, and will not seek re-election in 2012.
Notwithstanding this decision, I have every intention of remaining involved in the issues that affect the well-being and the future of our country.