Webb drops out of Obama veepstakes

Cross another Virginia Democrat off the list of potential running mates for Barack Obama. Three weeks after former governor Mark Warner told the Virginia Democratic Convention that he would not accept his party's nomination for vice president, Sen. Jim Webb issued a statement today saying, "Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for Vice President."

"I entered elective politics," continues Webb, "because of my commitment to strengthen America's national security posture, to promote economic fairness, and to increase government accountability. I have worked hard to deliver upon that commitment, and I am convinced that my efforts and talents toward those ends are best served in the Senate."

According to UVA professor and political pundit Larry Sabato, all the hype about Webb being able to deliver Virginia to Obama's column in November may have been unwarranted in the first place. "Vice presidential candidates really don't matter that much," says Sabato. "People don't believe that in the summer because there's enormous attention on this question now. But come November, people really do vote for the presidential candidates alone."

Still, Sabato says that we may yet see a Virginian on the Democratic ticket, since Gov. Tim Kaine– who was the first governor outside Illinois to endorse Obama's candidacy back in February 2007– still has not removed his name from consideration. "I don't think there's any question that, if asked, he'll take it," says Sabato. "He's still very much in the hunt."

If that happens, Sabato points out, it would be a significant loss for the state Democratic party. "The instant Kaine was sworn in, [Lt. Gov.] Bill Bolling would become governor, and the Democrats would lose control of state government," he says. "That would be unprecedented since Virginia went to four-year terms in 1852, and Bolling would instantly become a formidable candidate to be elected to a full term."

In the past, Kaine has deflected such speculation. "You're not going to see me leave," the Governor told the Hook during a visit to Sabato's class in April. "I'll be Governor of Virginia through January of 2010. Maybe after I'm governor I'll be able to help him."

On the other side of the aisle, another Virginia politician has been the subject of vice presidential speculation. Congressman Eric Cantor's (R-Henrico) name has been mentioned with increasing frequency as a candidate to pair up with John McCain, but Sabato says he doesn't see a McCain-Cantor ticket in his crystal ball. "His name recognition outside of his district is literally zero," says Sabato. "Besides, if you pick a young House member who's even younger than Obama, it makes it hard to make the inexperience argument."