I know it’s early to be making presidential predictions but I am going to make one: Mark Warner is going to win the presidency in 2008. I say this happily because out of the entire presidential field I believe he is the best person for the job. Before I get into why I think he deserves to win, let me summarize why he can win:
1. He’s a former governor. Senators don’t win presidential elections; they haven’t in almost 50 years.
2. He’s a Democratic governor from a red state (Virginia); do the names Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton ring a bell?
3. He left office in Virginia with an 80% approval rating; the highest on record for any governor in U.S. history.
4. He is a self-made millionaire (worth almost $200 million), tall, good-looking, well-spoken, charismatic.
5. He has no Washington baggage; he is an entirely fresh face. Haven’t we all had enough of the Bushes and Clintons?
6. He is a dedicated problem solver who became governor in Virginia when the state was mired in one of its worst fiscal nightmares. In four short years he turned it into one of the most prosperous states in the union.
7. He has a record of strong bipartisanship; the Virginia state senate was Republican-controlled under his tenure.
8. He appeals directly to rural voters in an authentic manner and does not come off as a member of the “liberal elite”.
9. Perhaps most importantly, he emphasizes what he is for, not what he is against, and emphasizes looking towards the future instead of the past (something I predicted would be a winning strategy early last year), all of which is just what the American people so desperately want.
Flowing from this last point, here are the reasons why Warner deserves to be our next president:
1. For a long time Democrats have been struggling to define what they stand for; national elections are not successful when run strictly on “opposition” platforms. Mark Warner doesn’t suffer from this problem. He articulates what he stands for, and does not focus exclusively on attacking Republicans. While he is short on specific policy proposals, I think this is actually a plus: Americans don’t vote for policy details, but for overall vision and direction. They trust that their leaders will flesh out the details once in office. On this note, Warner has put forth a very optimistic vision of an America that embraces globalization and technology, expands economic opportunities, and returns to fiscal responsibility.
2. He proudly proclaims himself a Democrat and a progressive, and says clearly why Democratic values are the best values for America. At a time when too many Democrats have themselves in a tizzy over how to attract the elusive (and perhaps mythical) “values voters”, often making the huge error that Democrats need to “out-god” the Republicans (e.g., Joseph Lieberman), Mark Warner has realized that emphasizing the traditional Democratic values of fairness, hard work, civil rights, and opportunity are the key to winning over the majority, and that there is no need to throw bones to intolerant religious minorities.
3. While his foreign policy views have not been entirely fleshed out, so far he is saying the right things. He continually emphasizes the need to deal with the present situation in Iraq, regardless of whether it was right to invade, and so he emphasizes trying to find a workable strategy to bring stability to the country. He shies away both from any mention of specific exit strategies as well as the delusional optimism of some of the war’s more fervent supporters. While some on the left may find his rhetoric too hawkish, to me it strikes the proper balance between caution and a will to achieve some sort of victory, which is not only probably the right course, but also in line with most Americans’ thinking.
4. Finally, if Mark Warner were elected I think we could expect many positive outcomes: a return to fiscal sanity, the appointment of moderate justices who respect individual liberties, a much improved environmental policy, a huge increase in incentives for scientific research, and a significantly improved standing in the world. While partisanship would not disappear, I think it would be much harder for the Republicans to mount aggressive assaults on a man respected by many Southerners and rural voters at a time when the public is fed up with partisan squabbling.
A few additional observations as well:
First, Mark Warner is not a perfect candidate, nor anything approaching a saint. His insistence that marriage can only be between a man and a woman is disappointing, and he has not come out strongly enough against the attacks of the religious right on our liberties. But from all I can tell he is an honest man who is smart, articulate, and would bring a level of integrity to the White House not seen in a long time. His lack of foreign policy credentials could be his Achilles Heel, but I think a tactical VP pick could easily solve this (it worked for Bush).
The talking heads in the media are already saying how formidable Hillary Clinton is, but they are as wrong about this as they are about most things. As soon as Warner decides to run and the public gets a chance to see them side by side, it will be clear that Hillary doesn’t stand a chance. If Al Gore decides to run, I think it will even be better for Warner: Gore and Clinton would have to attack each other to try to win the nomination, and Warner would benefit from their dueling. When he wins the Democratic nomination, I believe that almost all 50 states would be in play. This widespread appeal is exactly the type of politics the Democrats must return to. I am convinced of Warner’s attraction not only on my own account, but because even some of my hardcore Republican friends are prepared to vote for him. (And when he wins, I predict Al Gore as the nominee to head the EPA).
P.S. Here’s a link to Warner’s site. Go there, read up on him and urge him to run; when he does, volunteer. Here’s a link to a great interview with him as well.