August 29, 2005

The Coming Candidacy of Mark Warner

I attended the West Virginia Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Charleston on Saturday night. The featured speaker was Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia. Having now seen Warner in person I can make the following two statements with certainty. First, he is running for president. Secondly, while Senator Clinton must be considered the front-runner for the party's nomination in 2008, Warner should be a serious contender.

His campaign speech could still use some smoothing. In particular, I'd say he needs to work on its flow and drop the use of the phrase "sensible center" (the meaning is fine, but a differnt term would sound better). But he has his core campaign themes down, and I think they will find many receptive ears.

Central to his approach is the need for the Democrats to be a party in which everyone really does have a seat at the table - including blue grass and NASCAR fans. He wants to fight for every person in the country. And he wants to move the country forward, along the lines of the work he's done in Virginia: turning big budget deficits to surpluses; giving bonuses to good teachers who'll commit to staying in tough schools, be they in rural or urban areas; and strongly encouraging innovation and economic growth in a changing world economy. Actually I think that last point is one of the ones he made most effectively. Presenting a story of the kinds of changes currently going on, and talking about what we need to be doing now to keep the US succeeding at a time when we are starting to slip behind in many ways. Hard work and innovation need to be rewarded. I think he was great when he talked about how he didn't really work out as a lawyer (he's the only member of his family to go to college, but he's a Harvard Law grad), and how his first two business ventures failed, but he had a bit of success with his third - Nextel. His vision of an America that will support you if you work hard and take risks and aren't afraid to fail - I think that's something to would find support in many quarters, and something that's essential for our success as a nation. As he presents it, he makes us aware of a stark situation facing us, but at the same time reminds us of our past successes, urges us to work together, to maintain a social safety net and strong educational programs for those at all points of life, and generally to continue to move forward to bigger and better things, staying on the cutting edge.

Other lines which got a lot of applause hit on topics that Democrats should pound constantly - 1) spiraling gas prices and 2) the fact that the out of touch Republican leadership in Washington thinks that the federal government should take immediate action and get involved in the family disputes of the Schiavo family, but not act while 45 million Americans go without health care.

All in all, I think he has the makings of a strong candidate, and he made a very positive first impression.

Posted by armand at August 29, 2005 10:55 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Politics


Do you really think, in our polarized society today, that the 40+% of the electorate that is Republican will even take an initial look at any candidate that has a (D) next to his/her name? Do ideas matter at all any more?

Posted by: baltar at August 29, 2005 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

35% - 40% support for bush suggests that a quasi-red-state moderate democrat with sound values and both corporate and executive branch pedigree might be exACTly what middle america would be willing to look at, no matter what letter's next to his name. or at least here's hoping; it's hard to believe hillary can win, and i want to win more than i want any particular person in the white house at this point. it's gotten that bad.

just out of curiosity, isn't there a point where the outrage reaches a sufficient mass that we can start talking like the foregone midterm and '08 winners, and make the right refute the proposition?

Posted by: joshua at August 29, 2005 01:46 PM | PERMALINK

I'd say that ideas can matter. And of course keep in mind that George Bush never did win the support of a massive number of Americans in an election. In both elections he squeaked through - if Ohio had gone the other way in '04 he would have lost, and if ANY state would have gone the other way in '00 he would have lost. So I think it's entirely possible for a Democrat to win. And I think Warner might be just the guy to gain the support of those voters in the middle who don't reflexively vote for someone based on the letter that follows their name.

Posted by: Armand at August 29, 2005 01:58 PM | PERMALINK

I continue to maintain that ideas are significantly less important than organization, funding, mobilization and name-recognition. Look at 2004: we got Kerry because he organized better in Iowa than most other candidates (most of whom had better ideas: Clark and Dean were all over the idea thing). Hence, Warner might be great at ideas, but I don't think they'll do him a bit of good in the long run.

Posted by: baltar at August 29, 2005 02:13 PM | PERMALINK

I said they can matter. They are, of course, only part of what you need for a successful campaign. But I think having a good set of ideas that can appeal to swing voters is helpful to winning.

Posted by: Armand at August 29, 2005 03:28 PM | PERMALINK

Ideas a candidate truly believes in? Or just ideas that focus groups like?

Posted by: binky at August 29, 2005 07:19 PM | PERMALINK

You make an interesting argument on behalf of Gov. Wanrer, and I just linked to your post on my blog. I'm wondering, ideas aside, if Warner won't end up in the same Centrist boat as Joe Lieberman, and find the same fate for himself in 2008?

Posted by: FleshPresser at August 30, 2005 11:03 AM | PERMALINK


I'll let armand speak for himself, but I'd dispute you're characterization of Lieberman as "centrist". He seems much more right-wing than just about any member of the Democratic Party (Zell Miller and acolytes excluded). Lieberman seems further to the right than some very moderate Republicans (Chafee, Snowe, etc.).

I'll certainly admit that having good ideas isn't a negative, but I continue to dispute just how much of a positive it is. Anyone have any NES studies about how often people vote on ideas?

Posted by: baltar at August 30, 2005 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think that Lieberman's problem was his ideology. Or, at least, that wasn't his only problem. Many Democrats had all kinds of problems with Lieberman (be it his behavior in Florida in 2000, his chilly treatment of president Clinton, his even-squarer-than-Gore media image). Because of that, his campaign never attracted the kinds of support needed to win. But that was due to much more than ideology. Bill Clinton won the party's nomination as a centrist Democrat and I don't see why Warner can't do the same thing.

Oh, and Baltar, it all depends on how you measure centrist/conservative - if you do it on the basis of what you say that gets media attention or your most high-profile priorities, then yeah, Lieberman is a right-leaning Dem (all focused on morals and the military). But if you just use voting records as a measure, Lieberman isn't anywhere near the right-wing of the Senate Democrats. Of course that could just mean that there remain more centrist/conservative Dems than people realize (not a huge number, but there are still some out there).

Posted by: Armand at August 30, 2005 11:42 AM | PERMALINK
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