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Warner bows out of ’08 nomination field

The Top Story by Chris Graham


Former Virginia governor Mark Warner was being talked about as a top contender for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination.

To say that his announcement in Richmond today that he will not seek the nomination was a surprise, then, is a pretty good understatement.

“It was definitely a surprise. This is one of the last things that you’d expect to come out of any kind of ’08 presidential talk,” said Matt Smyth, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Warner cited personal and family reasons for his decision to stay out of the ’08 fray.

“About a month ago, I told my family and people who know me best that I would make a final decision after Columbus Day weekend, which I was spending with my family. After 67 trips to 28 states and five foreign countries, I have made that decision. I have decided not to run for president,” Warner said in a statement e-mailed to supporters that he also read to reporters at this morning’s news conference.

“This past weekend, my family and I went to Connecticut to celebrate my dad’s 81st birthday, and then we took my oldest daughter, Madison, to start looking at colleges. I know these moments are never going to come again. This weekend made clear what I’d been thinking about for many weeks – that while politically this appears to be the right time for me to take the plunge, at this point, I want to have a real life,” Warner said.

Warner said the decision had nothing to do with considerations of his place in the ’08 nomination field.

“This is not a choice that was made based on whether I would win or lose. I can say with complete conviction that – 15 months out from the first nomination contests – I feel we would have had as good a shot to be successful as any potential candidate in the field,” Warner said.

Smyth said the talk of Warner being a top contender was serious.

“Warner had been as successful as any of the talked-about possible candidates who were exploring a run in ’08 – and had in fact raised as much money as anybody outside of Hillary Clinton among the Democrats. He was clearly among party insiders one of the favorites,” Smyth told The Augusta Free Press.

The Warner move would seem to be a benefit to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, long considered to be the favorite for the 2008 Democratic Party nod. Clinton, the wife of former president Bill Clinton, might have had to compete with Warner for support among party moderates – and several former Clintonistas who had signaled their support for Warner, who like Bill Clinton is a former Southern governor and fiscal moderate.”

“Clearly, the frontrunner in Democratic circles right now is Hillary Clinton,” Smyth said. “She is getting about 40 percent support among likely primary participants. You can win a primary, you can win a nomination, with 40 percent, you can also lose it with 40 percent.

“I think the more moderate wing of the party, if they were looking to sort of coalesce around an anti-Hillary, so to speak, were looking at people like Mark Warner, like Evan Bayh, like Bill Richardson. Warner had sort of grown to be the top name among those moderates over the last few months – especially because he had been so successful in fund raising. The events that he had put on had been very well received in the primary states and the caucus states,” Smyth said.
“This could cause Democrats to scramble a little bit – but then, it’s still 2006. There’s still a lot of time. But this does throw a bit of wrench in things,” Smyth said.

Warner appears to realize that the window of opportunity for someone like him to be able to run for the White House can close in an instant.

“While the chance may never come again, I shouldn’t move forward unless I’m willing to put everything else in my life on the back burner. This has been a difficult decision, but for me, it’s the right decision,” Warner said.

Significantly, he did not rule out a run at another elected office in the near future – speculation is already centering on the possibility that Warner could join Clinton on the 2008 Democratic Party national ticket or make a run at John Warner’s U.S. Senate seat in 2008 or a run at a second term as Virginia governor in 2009.

“My decision does not in any way diminish my desire to be active in getting our country fixed. It doesn’t mean that I won’t run for public office again. I want to serve, whether in elective office or in some other way. I’m still excited about the possibilities for the future,” Warner said.

“He’s probably got one of the highest outgoing approval ratings of any governor in Virginia – so I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all, especially when it’s an open-seat race every time because of the one-term limit,” Smyth said. “And if John Warner, who seems to be ageless, decides to retire in 2008, I think that would be a natural fit, if that was something that he wanted.

“I doubt that we would see him running for Congress or for something else like that. I think Senate and governor are the two natural fits – and the two that there could be an opening for in the next two years,” Smyth said.


(Published 10-12-06)


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