Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) took his name out of the running Friday in the race for retiring Sen. Jim Webb's (D-Va.) seat, while urging Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine to officially jump in.
"As I said in my recent speech at the Democratic Party of Virginia dinner in Richmond, Tim Kaine is a man of conviction and strong values," Connolly said in a statement. "Tim is a public servant in the truest sense of the word. He would make a great U.S. Senator and I hope he decides to run."
Connolly was among the rumored Democratic Senate candidates if Kaine were to decide against a bid, and taking his name out of the running now could be seen as a sign the popular former governor is leaning toward a 2012 run.
Connolly said he was "flattered that some would consider me a potential candidate," but made clear that he will run for reelection to the House next year, even if Kaine decides against a Senate run. He won his 2010 contest by a razor-thin margin over Republican Keith Fimian.
Kaine is widely seen as the best shot for Virginia Democrats to hang onto Webb's seat in 2012 and has been under heavy pressure — both publicly and privately — from party officials to make a run.
Kaine, who recently met with President Obama to talk about a potential campaign, is expected to announce his 2012 intentions by next week.