Warner: Trump should reach out to Democrats

mark warnerdonald trumpWhen Mark Warner wanted to get deals done as governor of Virginia, the Democrat reached out not to fellow Democrats, because they were already, largely, on his side.

Warner, now a U.S. senator, famously reached out to Republicans.

One businessman to another, he has familiar advice for embattled President Donald Trump

“I was hoping that maybe he would be the deal-making Trump president, that would reach out to both sides. Instead it seems to be, at least so far, in both the budget and the healthcare effort, the effort was much more to reach out to the Freedom Caucus than it was to reach out to moderate Republicans or any Democrats,” Warner told me in an interview last week.

Warner, like Trump, made his foray into politics after a successful stint in the business world – Warner was a venture capitalist who was an early investor in Nextel.

You don’t build up a net worth of $250 million without knowing how to cut deals, which brings us to the story of the 2004 tax reform deal in Virginia.

The Virginia budget faced a shortfall that was going to force significant cuts to education, public safety and social services. Warner faced down a Republican state legislature that by nature wanted to balance the budget by making cuts.

That same GOP-majority legislature eventually approved a budget package that included $1.6 billion in tax increases, the centerpiece being a half-cent increase in the state sales tax.

How Warner was able to get the deal done is no secret.

“If you go back to 2004, I don’t think I spent virtually any time with any of the Democratic legislators when we were trying to do the tax stuff. Politics is, I think, maybe half policy and half personal relationships,” Warner said.

Trump, to this early point in his administration, has tried to use the stick at the expense of the carrot, even on titular allies in the GOP, to the detriment of the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

To that point, I asked Warner if anyone from the Trump administration had reached out to him to try to engage the self-styled bipartisan in the art of the deal.

The short answer: no.

“The one thing I’ve heard from people is that he’s personally charming. I don’t know when he’s going to put that to work on the Democrats. It seems like he’s going back and forth,” Warner said.

Story by Chris Graham