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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

In The Shadows....Warner Obama's Veep?

Below The Beltway, Back rooms and DC Shadows Report. Warner being seriously eyed for Obama Ticket Veep?

12:56 pm on March 3, 2008.

Over the weekend, there was apparently speculation at the New York Observer that former Governor, and current Senate candidate, Mark Warner might end up as Barack Obama’s Vice-Presidential nominee:

To the early list of possible running-mates if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, add Mark R. Warner.

Warner is a frighteningly logical pick for the VP spot, with the seemingly insurmountable catch that he committed to running for U.S. Senate from Virginia as soon as Republican John Warner announced his retirement in early September.

But apparently, there’s some wiggle room there. That wiggle room would/will be tricky at best, and though the greatest majority of Virginians are enamored of Warner, sort Obamian identification, the move short of a “Draft” would be perilous to Mark’s distinguished record and rising star.

At a private fund-raiser for a nonprofit organization in New York yesterday, Warner was asked by an attendee about his interest in being a Democratic running mate. In response, he said he was committed to the Senate race, but also noted that he never rules anything out. You have to remember that Mark was actively exploring a Presidential bid, a bid he closed out for very honorable family related matters.

And a Virginia investor and influential Warner supporter I spoke to afterward seemed to reaffirm the idea that the VP idea was in play. “I can’t imagine that he’d rule it out,” the supporter said.

There’s just one problem with this idea; right now, Mark Warner is virtually guaranteed to be the next Senator from Virginia and Democrats are hungry to pick this seat up. According to the Observer, though, there are two possible ways to tap Warner as Veep and still keep the Senate seat: (here we go!)

Obama secures the nomination in the near future and makes an early announcement that Warner is his running mate—sometime before June, when Virginia’s Democrats will pick their nominee; probably at a state convention (they may also call a primary).

Or Obama could just as easily tap Warner over the summer (the Democratic convention isn’t until August), in which case Warner would simply vacate his Senate nomination. Virginia law allows candidates to withdraw up to 60 days before an election (September 5 this year), with their state party picking a replacement.

In either case, Virginia Democrats would have two clearly viable replacement options for the Senate race, each of whom would be favored to win the general election.

The most obvious replacement would be Kaine, whose own gubernatorial term runs through 2009. Kaine enjoys strong statewide popularity and would almost certainly defeat Gilmore, the Republican. But there are problems.

The biggest problem, of course, being the fact that Kaine’s resignation, if it happened would hand the Governor’s Office to Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, a Republican. Bolling would then have the advantage of incumbency in the 2009 Governor’s race. His likely opponent would be Brian Moran, brother of 8th District Congressman Jim Moran. I have no doubt he can defeat Bolling should that become the scenario, but it would be made a tad bit more difficult.

If not Kaine then, who ?

If not Kaine, Warner would find an able, willing and popular Senate replacement in Don Beyer, who served as lieutenant governor from 1989 through 1997, when he narrowly lost the gubernatorial race to Gilmore.

A businessman from northern Virginia, the 57-year-old Beyer has eyed a return to elected politics since that ‘97 defeat (an upset loss brought about by the late success of Gilmore’s anti-car-tax campaign) but hasn’t taken the plunge. He was prepared to run for the Senate this year had his close friend Warner not decided to enter.

Even though he lost to Gilmore 11 years ago, Beyer would be well positioned for the fall. First, Gilmore’s governorship (from 1997 through 2001) isn’t remembered fondly by Virginians, and he further hurt his reputation by waging an abortive and aimless presidential bid last year. And in the intervening decade, the state’s demographics have continued to shift in the Democrats’ favor. The party has now won three of the last four statewide elections.

The problem for Democrats there as Chris at The Mason Conservative notes is that Don Beyer is no Mark Warner.

He’s further left and he doesn’t have the popularity that Warner does. A Gilmore-Beyer race would be far more competitive and Gilmore would have a good chance of beating the Volvo salesman from Falls Church yet again.

And, oh yeah, Mark Warner is dismissing the Observer report today:

Former Gov. Mark R. Warner is dismissing speculation that he might drop out of the U.S. Senate race if offered the vice-presidential slot on Sen. Barack Obama’s ticket.

The New York Observer reported Friday that Warner told supporters in New York he isn’t ruling out running for vice-president if Obama, who has yet to secure the Democratic nomination, asked him to be his running mate.

But Kevin Hall, a Warner spokesman, played down the article. (Not To Well!)

“Neither he nor I were asked to comment for that column,” Hall said. “The governor is actively engaged in a U.S. Senate race and he is working hard six days a week to earn the privilege of taking his brand of results oriented leadership to the Senate.”

More importantly, Warner doesn’t have any national stage experience and is virtually unknown outside Virginia. That’s not the kind of running mate that Barack Obama needs.

Now that is a bunch of spin ducking if I ever heard it! In Warner’s brief run at the Presidency he drew excited crowds wherever he appeared, made a favorable impression without exception, and when he appeared in Columbus with Hillary on the Bill the folks wouldn’t let him get away.

I would suggest that what Obama needs is someone with foreign and domestic policy experience to offset doubts about his own lack of experience. John Edwards would fill the bill, but as always he will be faced with the wrap that he is not a good vote getter, just a good bright guy with positives views. What a mess.

Bill Richardson might be a good match, especially because it would help Obama with the Hispanic vote in California. and Texas, and he has the experience and a charming persona and charisma as well as excellent skills in media debates. So what problem do we have here…Clinton loyalty of the highest order may just simply make him an impossible choice.

There are a few other names floating, wafting around on cigarette smoke in the night shadows of DC. I deal with them if and only when they see the light of day. That’s it from below the beltway, in the back rooms and shadows of DC. Ed.

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