Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Warner for President?

I really hate how the whole election of 2006 has been subsumed by the pending election of 2008 -- it's almost as if the current election didn't matter, but of course it does. In many ways, it may be more important that what happens in '08. One thing that really fries me is that the cable talk shows spend an inordinate amount of time talking about Hillary, as if she were the most important thing going on right now. Chris Matthews seems particularly obsessed with her, and somehow manages to work some Hillary story into nearly every one of his shows. The cynic in me says that this is all part of a ploy to draw attention away from the dismal prospects that the Republicans are facing this November and to focus it instead on the one icon that will fire-up the misogynist Republican "base", thereby making them forget about how irritated they are with their current leadership. One thing that seems to get lost in all of this: Hillary hasn't yet declared her intention to run, must less actually won the nomination. Why are we even wasting time with this? She's going to win her reelection to the Senate in a walk, so why not focus on those Senate races that are in play? The '08 presidential race is not going to be a legitimate issue until about a year and half from now.

Nevertheless, it is worth pondering about. And one candidate that doesn't get the attention he deserves is Mark Warner of Virginia. Again, playing the cynic, I'd say it's because there's nothing that gets people riled up about him. I don't know a lot about him specifically, but he's not Hillary, and therefore for some strange reason he isn't news. But he has a lot of important structural advantages that would make him a killer candidate for the Democrats come '08. And here they are:

1. He is from the South. The last 3 Democratic presidents were all southerners, going all the way back to LBJ. There's a reason for this -- being from the south negates the New England or West Coast "elitist" meme that a lot of Democrats have to deal with; it also allows Democrats to make inroads into what are normally Republican strongholds, and forces the Republicans to play defense on their home turf.

2. He is a former governor, and of the last 5 presidents, 4 of them were former governors. (The other was a former VP.) Governors have the benefit of having been chief executives of their respective states, and can argue that this makes them more suitable for the presidency than a legislator would be (an arguable thesis, but one that resonates with the public). Moreover, Senators and Congressmen have voting records that can plague them, whereas governors don't really have voting records; instead, they have initiatives that are much easier to spin positively, especially if these were popular with the home crowd.

3. He was an extremely popular governor, and this makes the ability to spin his accomplishments all the more easier. People in the rest of the country tend to judge governors according to how those in their home states view them, whereas Senators or Congressmen are judged according to national standards.

4. He is from Virginia, which is a state that has been trending towards swing-state status thanks in large part to the growth of the D.C suburbs in the northern part of the state. Virginia carries massive electoral votes, and if Warner were to lock those votes, the Republicans would be hard pressed to make up for them elsewhere. Assuming everything stayed how it was in '04, they would need to flip a state that carried nearly the same number of electoral votes, and there really aren't that many. Even if they won Ohio and Florida again, they'd still lose. What state could make up for the loss of Virginia? Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, or Michigan are the only ones I can think of that might be in play. All of these went to Kerry in '04, so we're talking about a massive uphill battle for the Republicans were they to lose Virginia.

None of this is saying that Warner should be the nominee, but he must be the kind of candidate that give the Republicans heartburn at night. And one might think that this would make him more newsworthy than Hillary, but to think this, you'd have to misunderstand how the news actually works.