Politics & Policy

The Mark Warner-Deaniac Courtship

Is the Virginia governor wooing the Kossacks?

At the end of November, then-Virginia governor Mark Warner said,”This Democrat doesn’t think we need to re-fight how we got into (the Iraq war). I think we need to focus more on how to finish it… To set an arbitrary deadline or specific date is not appropriate.” Warner has also stated, “regardless of whether we like how we got there, we need to finish the task.”A speechwriter for former Virginia governor Doug Wilder concluded, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Bush and Warner positions on Iraq nor an ounce of criticism of the war in this speech.”

Warner criticized John Kerry for never breaking “with anything in Democratic orthodoxy” and declared, “Democrats aren’t the majority party in this country.”He credited President Reagan for “truly [making] Americans feel proud again in the early ’80s.” When asked for his role model, he named Republican president Theodore Roosevelt. He has supported the death penalty (eleven times, with one high-profile granting of clemency) and signed every piece of NRA-backed gun legislation that crossed his desk. He supports welfare reform, a ban on partial-birth abortion (with exceptions for “the health of the mother”) and parental notification on abortion, and he opposes same-sex marriage. He signed a fetal-homicide bill, designating the murder of a pregnant woman as two separate killings. He has attacked Washington Democrats for “defending the same government programs, thinking they are going to get us new results” and has said, “simply putting up new tariff structures or ones that restrict trade–I believe does not play to the long-term interests of the United States.”

These are some bold stands for a man who wants the Democratic nomination. It’s particularly surprising coming from a man who will run against Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold, and perhaps Al Gore for votes in the Democratic primary, where the early contests are dominated by proudly liberal and relentlessly antiwar grassroots.

One might think that to the Democratic “net-roots,” Warner’s positions and comments are one step removed from those of the intolerable apostate Joe Lieberman. But Warner has actually been winning praise from liberal blogs. Why all the enthusiasm for the outgoing Virginia governor?

For starters, it probably helps that back in August, Warner’s PAC hired MyDD creator Jerome Armstrong to be its Internet director.

This isn’t the first time Armstrong has consulted on a campaign; he and his then-partner in a consulting firm, Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, both worked for the Dean campaign in 2003. Reaching out to one of the architects of the Dean campaign’s web-based insurgency has made a good impression on the fired-up blogging activists of the left.

While Moulitsas Zuniga called Warner’s Iraq position “untenable and increasingly obsolete,” he has also emphasized that he likes Warner. He said in Newsweek recently:

The person to watch on the Democratic side for president is not Hillary Clinton, but [former Virginia governor] Mark Warner. He showed that not only could he win in Virginia, a Red State, but he had the coattails to help his successor win. He is one of the most popular governors in Virginia history–he has a 70 or 80 percent approval rating.

Some recent Warner-related Kos headlines:

2008: The Warner train gathers steam (Kos writes, “Warner is the one to watch”)

Clift: Warner over Clinton? (w/poll)

2008 poll for VA: Warner 49%, Allen 44%

Why Mark Warner is our best candidate for 2008 (w/poll)

(Some of these entries are written by site founder Moulitsas Zuniga, others are not.)

MyDD has been pretty good in making clear its Warner ties–Armstrong’s up-front disclosure can be found here,and he hasn’t blogged about Warner himself (except when describing fundraisers he has attended, and the like). The site doesn’t seem to be chock full of cheerleading for Warner, but there have been a few headlines and comments, recently:

Warner PAC Kickoff raises $2.5 M

House Democrats Hitch Wagon to Warner, it’s paying off for Democrats

Will Virginia Become A Swing State in 2008?

There are two conclusions to be drawn from this. One is that Mark Warner shouldn’t be caricaturized as the “conservative,” “centrist,” or “moderate” candidate in the race when he’s willing to associate himself with the fervent antiwar left for his support. Secondly, some (including myself) have predicted that the Deaniacs of 2004 would be a ready-made engine for a liberal challenger to Hillary Clinton in 2008–Feingold, Gore, or perhaps some other Democrat seeking to represent “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” That assessment ought to be reconsidered; at least some of them appear to be demonstrating they’ll back any Democrat who looks like he can win some red states.

Jim Geraghty writes TKS for NRO from Turkey. He’s the author of an upcoming book on terrorism and voters.


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