Warner rallies Dems in Staunton
Story by Chris Graham
Mark Warner has been down this road before – lending his name and expending his political capital to aid political protege Tim Kaine’s run at the governor’s job last fall.
The businessman-turned-Virginia political favorite son knows that there is risk involved to engaging in such efforts.
“If you feel like you believe in somebody, and you believe in their ideas, then you support them,” the former Virginia governor told The Augusta Free Press today after a campaign rally in Staunton.
Warner’s magic touch was key to Kaine’s comeback win over Republican Jerry Kilgore last fall. Webb could also stand to benefit from Warner’s active support – the Vietnam veteran and former Reagan administration Navy secretary is locked in a too-close-to-call battle with Republican incumbent George Allen as the campaign enters its final hours.
Warner spent the weekend traveling across the state to stump for Webb – and will continue his efforts tomorrow at events with Kaine and Webb in tow.
Warner, a one-time 2008 Democratic Party presidential-nomination candidate who decided last month against further exploration of a run at the White House, said what he likes most about Webb is his independent streak.
“What I like is the issues that he’s focusing on – how we change our national-security policies to make America more respected in the world, to try to look at the issues of economic fairness, to also make sure that we have a Congress that will do its job in terms of providing a check and a balance,” Warner said.
“I know at the beginning folks said this race wasn’t going to be competitive – just as Tim’s race a year ago, when folks at the beginning said that race wasn’t going to be competitive. I think you’re seeing a desire for change,” Warner said.
“I think in Virginia we’ve shown that Democrats are coming at issues from the center – they’re not coming at it from the political extreme. I think Jim Webb will be in the kind of mold that Tim Kaine and I have tried to move the Democratic Party. I think that’s important – I think that’s important not only for the Democratic Party, I think it’s important for the country,” Warner said.
Warner was joined at the event at Wright’s Dairy Rite in Staunton – a favorite political hangout for local and state Dems and Republicans over the years – by Brian Moran, a Northern Virginia state delegate who serves as the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Moran said Webb’s gain in the polls can be attributed to the fact that he has “provided a proven record of leadership – particularly with respect to military affairs – and people are very secure right now about our direction in Iraq.”
“Jim Webb has provided a real alternative – someone who can speak about Iraq and our military and our foreign policy with unmatched credibility. No one is his equal with respect to his ability to talk about success against terrorism in Iraq,” Moran said.
Some observers would like to have seen more from Webb on issues other than the war. Moran acknowledged this in an interview with the AFP.
“You have to fire an incumbent – so that makes it difficult,” Moran said. “You have to highlight your opponent’s inadequacies. And this one has been particularly difficult. But hey, ultimately I think people are going to vote on their economic security as well as their physical security. And they feel more secure with Jim Webb’s candidacy.”
“I think the reason for (the attention on Iraq) is that Iraq has overwhelmed all the other issues,” Moran said. “That’s all people have really been talking about – and the media has been covering, rightly so. But he’s talked about other issues as well. He’s talked about the disparity in the economy – and how you have tax cuts for the ultrarich, and the middle class and the lower-income class are being squeezed. So he’s talked about that – he’s talked about economics as well as Iraq.
“But rightly so, the media and others are paying attention to Iraq and our security,” Moran said.
Those are the issues that will get Webb elected on Tuesday, to hear Warner tell it.
“I think Virginians want a change,” Warner said. “They want a Congress that when the president is right, the senators will stand with the president – but when the president’s wrong, they’ll be an independent voice. Our current incumbent senator votes 96 percent of the time with the Bush administration. That’s a Congress that’s not doing its constitutional duty of providing a check and balance.
“I think if we want a way out of Iraq that is going to actually allow us to win the war on terror, if we’re going to make sure that we have a more competitive national economy, if we have actually have rational energy policies, we need a United States Senate and United States Congress that’s going to vote for change – and I think Jim Webb’s got the right experience and will bring the right kind of independent approach,” Warner said.