Virginia: Warner backs Obama, campaign manager says

Column by Chris Graham
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“We’ve been doing everything we possibly can to make sure that we’re coordinated with the Obama campaign,” Mark Warner’s campaign manager, Mike Henry, told me today, responding to a column in the AFP last week in which I noted how Warner seemed to me to be playing it kind of safe, to say the least, as far as the 2008 presidential contest is concerned.

I wasn’t the only person in Virginia politics circles to be addressing that question openly at the time, either. The punditocracy has been murmuring about Warner’s seemingly diminished role in the ’08 presidential race for weeks, and a report in the Washington Post last week about how Warner was apparently thinking about sitting out a run of radio spots featuring Virginia Democratic leaders endorsing Barack Obama really got the tongues a-wagging.

My two cents was based on a conversation that I’d had with Warner earlier this month in Harrisonburg during his Virginians for Warner tour that had him traveling the state with a number of top Republicans who were endorsing his Senate candidacy. Warner offered what I thought was a lawyer’s answer to my question on who he was backing for president, and only came out more forcefully in support of Obama when I mentioned to him that I thought he was hedging his bets.

“Of course I support Sen. Obama. I think he’s the right choice. And if I can do more to encourage people to vote for him, I will,” Warner said, leading me to end my column, “Doesn’t seem like he’s all that interested to me, but maybe it’s just me.”

Henry pointed out that Warner has made it a priority to campaign with Obama whenever Obama is in the Commonwealth, endorsing the Democratic Party presidential nominee when he visited Bristol in June and then touring Southwest and Southside with Obama in August. Warner also canceled a scheduled day of events to be with Obama in Norfolk in September, Henry said, and will be with Obama tomorrow for events in Richmond and Leesburg.

“Every time he’s in the state we try to work with him and try to get where we need to be,” Henry said.

Henry also said Warner is working on a radio spot backing Obama that should be out in the coming days.

“I know that some people don’t see everything all the time, but I wanted you to be aware of some of the things we’ve been doing,” Henry said.

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