Former Sen. George Allen has not ruled out another run for Virginia governor in 2009 but he will not run for the Senate again even if Sen. John W. Warner decides to retire.
"There are people who encourage me to run for office again and I haven't made any decision," Mr. Allen told The Washington Times this week. "[My wife] Susan and I listen and appreciate their encouragement."
After losing to Democrat James H. Webb Jr. in November, Mr. Allen, 55, recently began re-emerging on the political stage in Virginia.
He formed a political action committee to rally financial support for Virginia Republicans, appeared at a local fair and began a blog online — all signs that Mr. Allen might be considering running for governor again, Republican strategists and party insiders say.
"Why wouldn't you?" said Craig Shirley, an Alexandria-based Republican strategist, when asked about Mr. Allen's political future in Virginia. "You're young, you're talented, and you've already won statewide office twice."
"All signs point to the fact that he is running for governor," a state Republican insider told The Times. "It makes perfect sense. He liked being governor more than being a U.S. senator, and despite the loss [in the midterm election] he is still the guy who led us out of the wilderness" in the 1990s.
A year ago, Mr. Allen was touted as a front-runner in the 2008 presidential race, winning the straw poll at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
His popularity reflected the following he built as Virginia's 67th governor, successfully pushing welfare reform, eliminating parole and instituting truth-in-sentencing.
"He proved he had what it took to be the reform governor we needed," said former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican who lost the 2005 governor's race to Democrat Timothy M. Kaine. "He reformed justice and brought a record number of jobs to the commonwealth."
In 2000, Mr. Allen won a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Last year, Mr. Allen's popularity declined in a re-election campaign that became focused on a "macaca" comment he made at a campaign rally about a volunteer for Mr. Webb. Also, anti-Republican sentiment, fueled by the war in Iraq, a bloated federal budget and the congressional page scandal, helped Democrats win control of Congress.
By the time Mr. Allen delivered his concession speech, he sounded poised to make a comeback.
"Sometimes winds, political or otherwise, can blow the leaves off branches or even break limbs but a deep-rooted tree ... will regrow in the next season," Mr. Allen told supporters.
Following a brief period, Mr. Allen joined the Ronald Reagan Ranch as a presidential scholar and in May he formed the Good Government Action Fund, a political action committee, to help Virginia Republicans running in General Assembly races this fall.
Since then, Mr. Allen has been blogging at www.GeorgeAllen.com, sharing or commenting on newspaper reports to dispatches from a cross-country road trip he made this summer with his 16-year-old son, Forrest.
Republicans said they want Mr. Allen to run for governor.
"I am certainly hopeful that he is considering another run for governor," Mr. Kilgore said.
"I would support him if that's what he wants to do," said former Attorney General Richard Cullen, a Republican who now serves as treasurer of Mr. Allen's PAC.
A gubernatorial bid by Mr. Allen would force fellow Republicans Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell to put on hold their hopes for a run or prompt an in-party fight for the nomination.
The three men crisscrossed the state together in the final days of Mr. Allen's re-election campaign last fall.
Mr. Allen, whom Mr. Bolling considers "the patriarch of the modern Republican Party in Virginia," still appears to be the party's rock star.
At the 14th annual "Burgers with Bill" fundraiser that marked Mr. Bolling and Mr. McDonnell's birthdays, those who attended the event said more people lined up to see Mr. Allen than Mr. Bolling or Mr. McDonnell.
"Clearly the longest line was for the people who wanted to talk to George Allen," said Tucker Watkins, chairman of the 5th Congressional District Committee. "There is a huge amount of affection in the party for him."
When asked who he would support, Mr. Watkins said, "As much as I like the other two, my heart would be with George Allen."