Warner for Senate? Not so fast

Column by Chris Graham

I’ve been taking in the speculation about Mark Warner’s next political step – and the notion that Democrats are courting him to run for the United States Senate in 2008.

My take on this is that we’re being a little premature in analyzing that one – given what I think is in the party’s best interests for ’08, anyway.

Democrats need Mark Warner to run on their national ticket in 2008 – if they have any hope of being able to win electoral votes in the South, that is.

No matter who gets the presidential nomination – it’s looking more and more like a Hillary vs. Obama showdown at this early stage in the parlor game, but you have to consider Bill Richardson, John Edwards and even Al Gore as possiblities this far out – they’re going to need to pick up some Southern votes to be able to get the 270 electoral votes needed to win the general election.

Now, Gore and Edwards are native Southerners, so it would seem to stand to reason that if either were to get the top spot on the ticket, then they would be OK in the South as far as November was concerned.

I would challenge that notion – by pointing to the results of the 2000 and 2004 elections, in which Gore (as the 2000 presidential nominee) and Edwards (as the 2004 vice-presidential nominee) pulled exactly zero electoral votes in the South.

Warner’s presence on the ticket in ’08 wouldn’t guarantee them of anything – other than perhaps Virginia, which has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1952.

So there’s a start – and my thinking is that Warner’s populist appeal could give the Dems a fighting chance in neighboring West Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

You’re talking 44 potential electoral votes there – in a climate where John Kerry was within 35 electoral votes of upsetting George W. Bush in 2004.

Which brings us to considering how Warner’s early exit from the ’08 race could actually help him in one respect – by bowing out, he will not come out as damaged goods, one, after having tried and failed to win the party nomination for president, and two, he will not have had any dustups with the top contender by the time the dust finally settles.

One thing can prevent him from being out there in the summer of ’08 when it comes time to pick a #2 – if he has already accepted the Democratic Party nomination to run for the U.S. Senate from Virginia.

Don’t be surprised to see Warner announce this summer or this fall that he is pulling his name from consideration for that seat – as he did two years ago in advance of the jockeying for position that led to Jim Webb’s upset of George Allen this past November.

Warner does have one consolation prize to aim for if he doesn’t get the second spot on the Democratic Party national ticket next year – running for governor in 2009, in a state where he would have to be considered a virtual lock at a second term that could position him well for a run at the White House in 2012 or 2016.

Hey, stranger things have happened.

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