To follow up on yesterday's piece on conservatives' love of Virginia Senator George Allen, it's worth noting that there's another Virginian expected to be a part of the 2008 primary scene. Governor Mark Warner (aka Jerome's boss) was profiled in the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Times of London on Sunday. The piece was titled (what else?), "Governor Nobody sneaks up on Hillary." It's an interesting examination of Warner as the emerging anti-Hillary of 2008.
Warner hopes to become America's Tony Blair, running to the right of the Democrat party to win the support of disaffected Republicans and independents.
"The sensible centre is wide open in this country," he said. "There's a lot the Democrats can learn from Tony Blair. He is an extraordinary world leader and a man of great conviction."
For his part, Warner has learnt not to question the decision to invade Iraq. As a former governor, rather than a senator like Clinton, he does not have to explain away any embarrassing votes for or against military intervention.
At a time of war, one of Warner's greatest areas of vulnerability is his lack of foreign policy and national security expertise. He is being coached by several former Clinton White House officials, including Richard Clarke, a former counter-terrorism adviser, and Ivo Daalder, an expert on Europe at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
"I was impressed," said Daalder. "He is a smart guy."
It's worth noting that the author of the article, Sarah Baxter, penned a pretty harsh hit piece in The Times during the 2004 election, explaining why, even though she voted for Labour as a UK resident and is a registered Democrat in the US, she was supporting George W. Bush. Though it may have been believable to British audiences, she hit on too many rightist talking points and shared too many of their linguistic flourishes for me to buy it as 100% honest. Since then, she's written such things as "Democrats also helped themselves to Abramoff's money," that Kofi Annan was "close to quitting" the UN last March, and that "doubts remain about Plame's precise status." She's written very positive things about Mark Warner however, and it's plainly obvious she sees him as a Democrat who can bring her back in the fold. There are quite a few ways to read that.
I think Baxter massively overstates the comparisons between Warner and Blair. For example, I don't really see him as "running to the right of the Democrat party." But then again, I'm not someone you'd catch dead using a phrase like "the Democrat party." There's a section in Warner's standard stump speech, "Why I Am a Democrat," that defines Warner for me as a pragmatic progressive, rather than a Blair-esque triangulator:
You can't move forward if every discussion is about abortion and guns.
Those are all important issues, and we can't ignore them. But they create passion that often distracts us from more fundamental issues.
Will this be an acceptable position to Democratic primary voters in 2008? I honestly don't know. But it's interesting that it seems to win over supposedly wayward Democrats like Baxter. I have a feeling that by the end of Bush's tenure, there are going to be a lot of voters who will want more than anything to feel comfortable with the Democratic nominee. It seems to me that Baxter, for one, thinks Warner's the man for the job. I'll leave it to you to make of that what you will.