The buzz intensified this week as questions grew louder about whether former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator George Allen would enter the 2012 U.S. Senate race.
News outlets from the Washington Examiner to the Washington Times and Washington Post to Politico to various blogs on both sides of the aisle were beside themselves as they speculated and passed along back-of-the-room whispers.
Allen, 58, has certainly been all over the Commonwealth, helping raise money for candidates, speaking at events, and taking his conservative message on the road with Americans for Prosperity.
At this week's AFP town hall event in Harrisonburg, Allen energized the packed room when he entered, greeting familiar faces by name, shaking hands with new folks, and smiling as he called out to everyone with his familiar, "Good afternoon, Patriots all!"
During his comments, he noted that one of the better things he did during his term in the senate was nominate Henry Hudson as a federal judge. Most Virginians recognize Judge Hudson as the one whose ruling allowed the Commonwealth's lawsuit to move forward against the federal government's demand that all citizens must buy health care.
While on the week-long AFP tour, Allen was asked more than once if he planned to get into the U.S. Senate race. Indeed, at Harrisonburg's meeting a local tea party member stood up, introduced himself as a member of that group, and said he had heard Allen may throw his hat back in the ring, adding that he was there to back him up along with many others in the room.
A spontaneous outburst of applause accompanied the comment as a smiling George Allen sat listening at the front of the room, and then responded, "Stay tuned," which brought chuckles from those in the room. He went on to explain that he was there for AFP and to repeal health care and to encourage lower spending, but then added, "I'd love to have you by my side." That's sounding a bit more definite than the "Perhaps" response he gave at last April's Shad Planking.
The Washington Post's Anita Kumar, covering a Wednesday AFP town hall meeting, talked with an Allen supporter about the possibility of his candidacy:
"I hope to God he runs,'' said Marie Zajick, a Chesterfield County resident who had a 'Cut spending' sticker. "I just think he's the kind of man we need."
Similar voices have grown louder throughout Virginia. In the Shenandoah Valley, where he has always been very popular, he recently visited an area restaurant where he was constantly approached by patrons who shook his hand, thanked him for his service to Virginia, and asked for autographs as others smiled from their tables. When he stood to leave, it took him twenty minutes to work his way to the front door, looking every bit the candidate as he took time to greet everyone who approached. That was vintage George Allen.
James Joyner at Outside the Beltway wrote earlier this week:
Even with a series of embarrassing flaps and running against Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy in a great year for Democrats, Allen barely lost last go-round. He’s done as a presidential contender but he has a real shot at taking back the seat. And announcing early sucks the oxygen out of the room; I doubt any serious Republican challengers emerge. He’s simply far and away better situated in terms of name recognition, favorability ratings, and fundraising ability.
Other names bantered around in Republican circles as possible candidates are Del. Bob Marshall from Prince William and Prince William County Supervisor Chairman Corey Stewart. Tea Partier Jamie Radtke announced her candidacy in December.
And what of 64-year-old Sen. Jim Webb? Will there be a rematch? While appearing in Virginia Thursday, he told reporter Ted Strong at the Daily Progress that he would make an announcement by the end of March amid rumors from some who suggest he may not run again.
As to Allen, without anything definite to go on, many are still asking, "Will he or won't he?" Taking a page from the George Allen playbook, the answer would be, "Stay tuned."