Will Ken Cuccinelli run for U.S. Senate against Mark Warner?

(WJLA) - What’s next for Ken Cuccinelli?

Having lost the closer-than-expected Virginia gubernatorial election last week against Democrat Terry McAuliffe, he still has work to do in his remaining weeks as the state’s attorney general but nonetheless faces an uncertain political future.

Or not.

That’s the word the past several days from a variety of conservative thinkers who believe Cuccinelli should run for the U.S. Senate next year against the popular incumbent and former Virginia governor Mark Warner.

Take, for example what columnist Judson Phillips wrote last week in the Washington Times:

“. . .In short, Ken Cuccinelli is the only potential candidate in Virginia with statewide name recognition who could take on Mark Warner and make this seat competitive. Cuccinelli has a lot of advantages that no one else has. His statewide organization is still intact. Another advantage is if he ran, the Republican Party would almost be forced to give him a significant amount of help.”

And then there’s this from Quin Hillyer:

“There’s every reason to believe ObamaCare will be an albatross around donkey necks next fall as well, and especially around the necks of senators such as Warner, without whose vote the dreadful law would not have passed. Because of his terrific lawsuit against Obamacare, there is nobody on Earth who is better suited than Cuccinelli to make that case against Warner.”

If the Affordable Care Act continues to struggle, the thinking goes, Cuccinelli and his Tea Party supporters suddenly don’t look like obstructionists but wise people ahead of the curve.

Mark Rozell, however, is skeptical. He’s the Acting Dean and Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, and says that “unless circumstances change substantially,” Warner would be “extremely” hard to beat.

“Cuccinelli might be interested in a run, but doing so is complicated by the fact that he is just coming off a statewide electoral defeat in a race that was very winnable for a Republican,” Rozell said. “The thinking among many is that a less controversial GOP nominee would have won this year. If he cannot beat someone who has never held elective office before, how can he defeat a popular former governor and incumbent senator?”

In the summer of 2011, Cuccinelli told the Washington Post he was keeping all his options open – including a potential challenge to Warner.

Another option was running for governor.

And now?

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, cites several factors that might weigh in Cuccinelli’s favor were he to decide to make a run at Warner: President Obama’s declining poll numbers, how Obamacare ultimately plays out and the fact that there are not yet any candidates “who could even vaguely” make a competitive run.

Even so, Sabato shares Rozell’s skepticism.

“Nobody's unbeatable, but Mark Warner would be a very tough target, especially for Ken Cuccinelli, (and) I don't know where Cuccinelli would get the campaign cash to compete,” Sabato said. “Warner is well prepared for a challenge, and Cuccinelli is no doubt tired after his loss and his resources are depleted.

“No one can predict what Cuccinelli will do, but right now, a Senate race doesn't look like a promising option for him.”