Davis may opt out of Senate race


Rep. Tom Davis (R-11th) may be getting cold feet about a 2008 Senate race.

After two months of fund-raising and posturing in a contest for the long-held seat of retiring Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), Davis told an audience last week that he might not become a candidate after all.

At a National Press Club event in Washington Oct. 18, Davis, 58, said hes aware that former Gov. Mark Warner (D) has already raised more than a million dollars only three weeks after entering the race and that the Virginia GOP has opted for a nominating convention next year, a move that would probably favor former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R).

Davis, however, hinted at ambitions to try again in four years for freshman Sen. Jim Webbs seat.

There are other races. This isnt the only shot, Davis said. “Youve got a very vulnerable guy sitting there in the other Senate seat right now who may or may not run in four years. And you know what? If you dont go to the Senate, so what? Ive been a committee chairman in the House. Ive got my portrait hanging on a wall. Ive been pretty productive legislatively.

In recent weeks, there have been whispers in state GOP circles that now that Virginia Republicans have picked a nominating process that might favor Gilmore, Davis may have decided not to risk his seat in the House of Representatives, where he serves on several powerful committees and served as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

If nominated, Davis would in all likelihood face Mark Warner, who nearly defeated John Warner in 1996 before winning the governor’s seat in 2001. A primary would have favored Davis because of his popularity in voter-rich Northern Virginia. However, delegates at the nominating convention would  mostly comprise party activists, and they swing heavily conservative. Davis styles himself more as a moderate.

Our calculation has been that, if you can get everything in line, its a doable race, Davis said. But if I have to spend eight months slogging through a party convention, talking to 15,000 Republicans around the state where theyre going to ask you how conservative you are, that does not set you up very well for a general election.

Davis told the crowd that the “number one” roadblock right now is the “continually toxic environment” Republicans face. However, he stressed that a lot can change in a year or even once a GOP presidential candidate is chosen next year. Davis has maintained that he would make a final decision about the Senate race in November, following Virginias state legislative elections, and he reiterated that pledge last week.

A good environment and a strong campaign — Ill take that any day, Davis said. Mark is certainly not bulletproof, but he has a good reputation and hes riding high because he left office popular in 2006 and hasnt had to take issue positions since then.