In 2007, I thought the best Democratic candidate for president
was not Hillary Clinton, nor was it Barack Obama. After looking
over the possible serious candidates, I came to the conclusion
that Senator Mark Warner of Virginia would make the better
president than the other Democrats. He had been a very
successful businessman, and an excellent governor of Virginia.
He was a thoughtful liberal and a centrist, a good speaker, and
he had a fine grasp of the nation’s issues. He was, and is, the rare
Democrat who is a proven and successful executive.
For a variety of reasons he did not run. If he had, I’m not so sure
he would have won the nomination. In 2008, he instead ran for
U.S. senate in Virginia, and he won.
Since that time, Senator Warner has served his state well, but
he has perhaps disappointed some, myself included, who thought
he was destined for greater political heights. He voted less as
a centrist as he voted for Obamacare legislation and often
followed the Harry Reid line. Two newer senators, Joe Manchin
of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp, have emerged as the leading
and most independent senate centrists. At the same time, however,
Senator Warner became one of the few figures in either party in the
senate to advocate and practice bipartisanship. In 2013, he introduced
the Digital Transparency and Accountability Act which would
standardize reporting of federal spending on a single website, a major
step forward in government accountability.
Mark Warner is now 61 years old. He might continue to serve in
the senate for one or two more terms. He is favored to win in
2014, although he faces a serious and first-rate Republican
opponent in Ed Gillespie. It is not a good year for senate
Democrats, especially those who voted for Obamacare, but
Warner remains popular and probably would win. If he does run
and win, he will probably be in the senate minority in 2015.
I still think that, more than his potential Democratic rivals for
the 2016 nomination, however, he would make the better president.
This would be his last chance to make an historic mark in
American politics. As it stands now, he will be a footnote in the
senate, and soon forgotten.
He does have an alternative, however. If he chose to retire now
from the senate, he could wage a serious campaign against the
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. She does look
unbeatable now, but her star has already begun to fade and her
poll numbers are beginning to recede. She might not run. I’m
not saying he would defeat Mrs. Clinton if she does run, but if
she does not, Mr. Warner would instantly be a very formidable
candidate. Although his national poll numbers are low now, he
does register on every current poll.
If Mark Warner runs for the U.S. senate this year, he will almost
certainly be asked if he will pledge to finish out his term.
Assuming he does run and wins, he would also not likely have
enough time to put together the organization and campaign he
would need to wage a successful presidential campaign.
Admittedly, Mr. Warner might have to make some hard political
The question is: What does Mark Warner want? He once made a
lot of money, then was elected governor and senator. He has a
good family and a good name.
That’s more than enough for most. Those who become president,
however, want more than just enough. They want to have some
positive impact on American history.
I once thought that Mark Warner wanted to do just that.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.