Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) sent the Democratic Party scrambling Wednesday by announcing he won't seek reelection for a second term in 2012. The moderate Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran and Navy Secretary under President Reagan, narrowly beat incumbent Sen. George Allen (R) in 2006, and Allen has already announced he'll run again in 2012. As Democrats struggle to keep their narrow majority in the Senate next year, how damaging is Webb's departure to the party? (Watch an AP report about Webb's retirement)

This could cost Democrats the Senate: It certainly won't be easy for Democrats to keep Webb's seat, says Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post. But there's more at stake than just one race. Democrats already have to defend 23 Senate seats in 2012, compared to just 10 for Republicans, and the uphill battle in Virginia is "likely to emerge as a linchpin" in their struggle to control the Senate.
"Jim Webb's retirement (and what it means)"

Webb's departure is a wash: "This is more of a jab to Democrats than a stomach-punch," says Nate Silver in The New York Times. Webb would have been "a modest favorite" to beat Allen, or whoever the GOP nominates, but other potential Democratic candidates are polling solidly, too. In other words, Webb is replaceable.
"How will Webb's retirement affect Virginia Democrats?"

No Dem can win in Virginia next year: The Democrats' best potential candidate, former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, now Obama's Democratic National Committee chief, "has said he won't run," says Philip Klein in The American Spectator. And even if he does, "Virginia is the epicenter for opposition to ObamaCare," and any Democrat — including Webb, who voted for the law — would lose to Allen in this historically red state.
"Webb not running — ObamaCare's latest victim?"

Democrats are better off with a new candidate: The truth is, Webb probably wouldn't have fought as hard in 2012 as he did in 2006, says David Weigel in Slate. Webb "passionately cared" about issues like the Iraq war, but once he got to Washington, his clear dislike of "politicking" emerged. A new, more enthusiastic candidate may be better for Dems in 2012.
"Jim Webb retires"