IT could be the Senate race of the decade. Four Virginians, all well-known statewide, will square off in November for a seat now held by Democratic Sen. Charles Robb.
The line-up took final form this week when a Republican, former Attorney General Marshall Coleman, and a Democrat, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, both announced they would run as independents.
On Tuesday, Senator Robb locked up the Democratic nomination with 58 percent of the vote against three lesser-known opponents. Earlier this month, retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North won the Republican spot on the ballot.
Despite the crowded field, analysts say any one of the four could win. A few days ago, a statewide poll showed all four tightly bunched - Robb, 28 percent; Mr. Coleman, 25 percent; Mr. Wilder, 22 percent; Colonel North, 21 percent.
Party loyalty may be decisive. North is struggling to hold GOP moderates. Even a quintessential Republican like former President Ford refuses to endorse him.
Yet Robb's woes may be just as deep. He has admitted to sexual indiscretions and his Democratic support has plunged.
North's and Robb's problems could provide openings for either Mr. Wilder or Mr. Coleman to break through and become the only independently elected member of the Senate.