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October 13, 2006
Warner Declines

Virginia Governor Mark Warner bowed out of the 2008 presidential race yesterday, stating that he wanted to spend more time with his family rather than pursue the White House. By vacating the center, Warner has left a hole in the party's offerings -- and an opportunity for at least one Democrat to seize the moderate position:

Mr. Warner, who five years ago became the first Democrat elected governor of Virginia since 1989, had drawn broad interest among party leaders assessing the potential 2008 field, both as a centrist elected in a Southern state and as a wealthy entrepreneur able to finance his own campaign.

But at a news conference in Richmond and in a subsequent interview, he said he had increasingly turned against the idea of running as he found that the obligations of even exploring a candidacy were consuming him and taking him away from family obligations. He said he had long set Columbus Day weekend as a deadline for making a final decision, fearing that to wait any longer would compromise aides who might want to sign on with other presidential campaigns.

“This is the right time politically,” he said in the interview. “It’s just not the right time for me in my life at this time.”

The 51-year-old Mr. Warner had made extensive preparations for the possibility of a run, assembling a staff of 35, raising close to $10 million for his political action committee and campaigning constantly on behalf of other Democrats. In fact, he had barely made his announcement Thursday when he left for Iowa, the first state on the presidential nomination calendar, to stump for a Congressional candidate.

So who does this help? Hillary Clinton should gain the most from this development. Ever since her first election to the Senate in 2000, she has tried to carve out a moderate record to convince voters that HillaryCare belonged in the dustbin of history. She has been mostly hawkish on Iraq, although she has indulged herself with plenty of shots at the Bush administration's execution of the war. Hillary demanded action against Afghanistan at a time even when the Left warned about the British Empire's failure in the 19th century. She has even tempered her rhetoric on abortion, to the dismay of the Democratic netroots.

Hillary had already been moving in Warner's direction. In fact, Democrats liked Warner because he had naturally taken more centrist positions and would have built more trust in his centrist resolve than Hillary, who continues to be seen as a political opportunist -- especially after her carpetbagging run for the Senate in New York. The Democratic Leadership Council followers thought Warner could have succeeded in wooing independents and centrist Republicans where Hillary repels them. Now that opportunity has been lost, and Hillary has an open shot at Warner's base.

The Times mentions other candidates as well, but none of them have compelling arguments for Warner's moderates. The best of the lot might be Barack Obama, but he's only served two years of his first term in the Senate, hardly a deep resume for the top job. He works well with Republicans, but he appears more rational than moderate. Evan Bayh claims to be a moderate, but he generates less electricity than a generic NiCad battery in need of a charge. After that, the Times gets laughable; they even claim John Edwards will benefit from Warner's withdrawal, although Edwards and his poverty schtick (as Michael Barone puts it) hardly will capture the imagination of moderates. Edwards will have to campaign from the Left, which will probably put his former running mate John Kerry in a particularly tough position.

What does this do for Republicans? They have to assume that Hillary takes the nomination now, barring the rise of a different candidate with executive experience and moderate credentials. The Democrats won't take another chance on a leftward pol who can be cast as soft on terror and hard on capital. Hillary's nomination would be a mixed blessing: the GOP thinks she can't win, but they have to find someone with her name recognition on the Republican side. That favors Rudy Giuliani, which gives the 2008 election a Subway-Series tinge. If not Rudy, then perhaps Mitt Romney, but after that the name recognition factor starts dimming considerably. Newt Gingrich would rate high on that scale, but so would his negatives, which is the same problem as Hillary. After that, the prospects dim. John McCain seems obvious, but he won't win enough primaries to matter.

It's going to be a long campaign, and perhaps the real winners have not yet revealed themselves. Both parties have to hope that's the case at the moment.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 13, 2006 5:37 AM

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