I once compared Jim Webb to Daniel Patrick Moynihan: fairly conservative in their writing, reliably liberal in their voting records. But Moynihan was a senator from New York, where he had to worry about liberal primary challengers and left-wing third parties. Webb represented Virginia, which even in its blue phase was never a very liberal state. A more conventional Democrat, like Webb’s primary opponent Harris Miller probably would have lost even in 2006.
It was understandable that he was a dependable vote against George W. Bush, but when the Barack Obama was elected Webb had an opportunity to become an influential senator by compiling a more independent voting record. He didn’t take it. Instead he entered this year between a rock and a hard place: Virginia is inching back to the right but Webb, a lousy fundraiser, was going to need the liberal netroots to raise campaign cash for him. So tacking to the right, even in a too little, too late fashion, became impossible for him.