NYT profile of Mark Warner.

In today’s New York Times, contributor Matt Bai has a lengthy (over 8,500 words), insightful profile of former Virginia governor Mark Warner and the position that he’s found himself in as he seeks the Democratic nomination for the 2008 presidential elections.

Entitled “The Fallback,” Bai’s thesis is that Warner is positioned to be the second choice for the presidency, immediately behind Senator Hillary Clinton. Sen. Clinton has all the benefits of being an incumbent vice president. Rain makers and the biggest donors are largely unwilling to support anybody else, in part because they fear being locked out of the race if she gets the nomination, as they assume she will. As a wildly popular southern governor, Warner has become everybody’s second choice, which is a fine position to be in. But it’s a particularly good one for him, because, unlike the other candidates, Warner is sitting on $200M in personal wealth. He can ignore the big donors and pay his own way. If Hillary blinks, he’ll be there as the #1 guy. However, Warner’s not ready. He remains unpolished, and his views are not those of Democratic elites. But the race is a long way off, and he’s got time to clean things up and to convince the decision-makers to come around.

Or so that’s Bai’s view of things. There’s not much that I’d disagree with there, though it’s worth adding that Warner has come an extremely long way just in the past couple of years.

One bit of the article had me silently cheering:

Warner may have glimpsed a piece of his future when he attended a dinner of wealthy Democrats last summer at the Bay Area home of Mark Buell and his wife, Susie Tompkins Buell, well-connected contributors and close friends of the Clintons. Warner made some introductory comments about “the Virginia story,” but the first several questions were not about taxes or schools or health care, but about gay marriage (which he’s against), the death penalty (which he’s for) and abortion (he’s in favor of parental notification but vetoed a bill banning all late-term abortions). Warner thought his liberal guests would be interested in his policies to improve Virginia schools and raise the standard of living in rural areas; instead, it seemed to him, they thought that they understood poverty and race in an intellectual way that he, as a red-state governor, could not. Like a lot of politicians, Warner can be snappish when he feels he isn’t being heard, and the dialogue quickly grew testy.

At the end of the evening, according to people who were there, as some of the guests walked Warner to his car, one woman vowed to educate him on abortion rights. That was all he could take. “This is why America hates Democrats,” a frustrated Warner blurted out before driving away. (Still piqued a month later, Warner, speaking to The Los Angeles Times, summarized the attitude of the assembled guests about their plans to save the country: “You little Virginia Democrat, how can you understand the great opportunities we have?”)

Warner seems unconcerned about the damage done by such comments. “If somebody wants a purist, I’m not the guy,” he told me.

That’s why I like Mark Warner, and that’s why I think a majority of American voters will like Mark Warner.

There’s another aspect of the article that captures something that I’ve given a lot of thought to in the past couple of years. In mid-2005 we saw the netroots lashing out against Tim Kaine. Narrow-minded Democrats found that various aspects of Kaine’s beliefs didn’t fit their own worldview, and condemned him for it, declaring that accepting Kilgore would surely be better than “selling out” with Kaine. (The October Steve Gilliard incident is a perfect example of this, with Markos having only made it worse. Witnessing this really bothered me; I lost a lot of faith in Markos after this, and I haven’t looked at Gilliard’s site since.) This is easy to say for a progressive safely ensconced in Oregon or California, but it demonstrates an ignorance of political realities that frightens me. So many bloggers have virtually no political experience, and they reach an audience that far exceeds what their abilities should permit in any rational knowledge economy. They’re like baby Supermen who haven’t grown into their powers just yet, smashing cars and tossing kittens over the horizon just because they can. On this, Bai writes:

The political argument most often and most forcefully proffered online has very little to do with ideology, per se, and everything to do with partisanship. Rather than arguing for any particular agenda, what MoveOn.org and the bloggers demand from Democratic politicians is unwavering opposition to what they see as a corrupt Republican majority and to the supposed capitulation of Washington Democrats. Clinton encounters ambivalence online because she is a fixture of official Washington, and because she continues to emphasize her cooperation with like-minded Republicans. The party’s online activists don’t want to hear about the compromises it takes to govern; they want someone who will derail the Republican agenda, even if he (or she) has to strap himself to the tracks with two fistfuls of dynamite to do it.

Tim Kaine gained the support of Democrats in Virginia because the Virginia political blogosphere is unusually savvy and, in part, because the blogosphere was so much smaller a year ago. The American Democratic blogosphere cannot be tamed by Mark Warner, but he will need to have a serious strategy planned to influence the discussion to favor him and his particular brand of politics. Warner is not going to “strap himself to the tracks with two fistfuls of dynamite,” and there will be thousands of baby Supermen shaking their tiny fists at his refusal. Here’s hoping his staff has a plan to deal with that.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

28 replies on “NYT profile of Mark Warner.”

  1. At the risk of expressing an unpopular opinion…

    Right now as a left leaning moderate, my first choice for the next president would be former govenor Warner. I think if the democratic party wants to give the 2008 presidential race to the republicans then they should go ahead and nominate Senator Clinton (and for the record I liked Bill as the President). If the democratic party wants to actually have a shot at winning then they should nominate govenor Warner.

  2. I agree with you entirely. If somebody can name for me one state that Hillary Clinton would win that John Kerry didn’t, I’ll figure the matter is open for discussion. Until then, what with her 51% “I would never vote for her” rating, Warner looks like a far better shot than Clinton.

  3. I totally wholeheartedly agree. Alot of people want to change everything at once with their politicians. They want them to conform to about 100% of their attitudes and beliefs. This is totally unrealistic. Political change occurs around the edges…small turns. Mark Warner is that type of politician. He’s effective because he understands that his political reality in VA is not the political realities in other parts of the country. I hope he is given a fair shot. I’ll vote for Hillary if she is nominated. I’ll put a bumper sticker on my car. But she is DOA in 2008.

  4. Waldo & company,

    I think your analogy is spot on, I have been trying to find the words to describe the situation of the blogisphere and you just did.

    But, I don’t know if you had a chance to read Adam Cohen’s article about “Crashing the Gate”, because he writes about . . . well the sunnier side of the picture.

    The article is written with a little bit of wishful thinking thrown over the shoulder, looking towards what the national blogishphere is on its good days. He points out that Jerome Armstrong (MyDD, Dean, so on and so on) is Warner’s web guy.

    So, I don’t know that we necessarily lose with Hillary (it will just be Gore’s and Kerry’s strategy all over again . . . third times the charm, anyone?)

    What we do lose is the South and the “Heartland”.

    Though on the flip-side of this, I believe there is a phenomenon that most pundits miss when they talk about the south becoming stronger with the population shifts: people moving south are liberal northerners! They don’t suddenly become heartland drones when they move to the south.

    Witness VA and Kaine’s victory: BIG demographic changes in places like Albemarle county and NOVA

    Anyway, just pointing out that it is not all doom and gloom considering HIllary.

    But, I am defiantly a Warner man, and I believe the time is coming for his brand of politics.

  5. Over at Raising Kaine, they had a good post on this, Essentially asking can Warner run the outsider/insurgant campaign that is needed to upset the Hillary boat.? (same as the article) You know considering he doesnt have a populist bone in his body.

    My take on this is that I think he can run a McCain, “straight talk”, campaign, without firing up all of the populist canons.

    Emphasis on “straight talk”, because in no way can he run as McCain like candidate.

    But, McCain was able to build up a ton of support outside of the usual GOP grassroots, people where registering as Republicans just to vote for McCain.

    In a way it would be a “take the man on” campaign, with a little twist:

    A new anti-partisan, practical, I get things done, the “man” (ie: inside the beltway) doesn’t get anything done, and the country is falling apart as a result.

    The great wide middle look towards DC and sees a smoking partisan battle field, that seems to be getting worse everyday. My bet is that they are looking for someone to rise about it all.

    The Kosser’s and Deaniacs want to win more than anything, and they are looking for any reason to turn on Hillary.

    If they could be convinced that this is strategy to win, then its all over but the crying.

    (can Warner get the elusive Rose Perot voter?)

    Plus, there is a great, GREAT, article (though a more than a little depressing) over at the American Prospect:


    They quote Kaine, and I think that the article is essential and should really start to color our thinking.

  6. But, I don’t know if you had a chance to read Adam Cohen’s article about “Crashing the Gate”, because he writes about . . . well the sunnier side of the picture.

    I hadn’t, but I just tracked it down — New York Times, no registration required.

  7. I agree that a Hillary primary win would guarantee a Republican victory in ’08, but, as a pro-choice, pro-equal rights Democrat I’ll admit that I’m torn. On the one hand, more Democrats is better than more Republicans on the issues that matter to me, including choice and equal rights, even when those Democrats don’t agree with me. It’s why I worked my ass off for Creigh Deeds, even though we could hardly be further apart on many issues — he’s a Democrat and light years better than McDonnell. On the other hand, if Democrats don’t hold firm for choice and for equal rights, then we guarantee that we’ll never see any progress on those issues. Demanding purity is bad, but so is demanding nothing.

    We’re in the spot we’re in — outright bans on abortion and gay relationships (never mind marriage, we’ve moved on to banning contractual relationships of any kind) sweeping the states — because conservatives recognized twenty years ago that the way to move the country to the right was by electing conservative candidates down ticket and supporting their ascension to ever-higher office. It took time and leadership, but they’ve succeeded moving the country in their direction, rather than racing to change themselves to better fit the country.

    Winning is the thing, of course, but politics is kind of empty if it’s the only thing.

  8. Warner’s reaction to his “lecture” so to speak was a spot on; too many liberals fell they need to “educate” the rest of America how they “should” feel about abortion rights, gay marriage, taxes, Iraq, etc. etc. etc. instead of offering a consistent vision which will attract voters. George Clooney remarked recently that he can’t understand how “liberal” became a dirty word; its precisely the kind of attitude displayed by Mark Buell that has turned the word into almost a four letter epithet in certain areas of the country.

    Instead of “agreeing to disagree’ with Warner on his position they felt that he was an ignorant Virginian who needed to be educated. Hardly a communication method to win over moderate or independent minded voters who may be sick to their gills of this Administration or the GOP but can hardly stomach the idea of some of the sanctimoniousness of the arrogant Left.

    I agree with Waldo on his assessment of Warner, and if he can balance maintaining liberal support, garner the “anti-Hillary” vote within the Democractic party and stay mainstream he will be an excellent nationwide candidate. Warner’s only drawback is his lack of military or foreign policy experience, however assuming he is the nominee he can always pick a VP that has those credentials (i.e. a Joe Biden)

  9. politicalopinion,

    I have found myself on the receving end of such “educational moments” from conservatives, many, many times.

    You know, because they think that they are the “grownups”.

    Liberals do not have a monomoply on pompous parentalism , in anyway, shape or form.

  10. Waldo, your points are very well taken about the low moments in the blog world/Kaine campaign relationship, particularly the dogmatic, uninformed pronouncements from non-Virginia bloggers. I feel for Warner, and for the country, that the same phenomenon of “don’t tell me, I already know it all” happens at the top of the party, with funders.

    Re the 2008 race: I’m sure this won’t be popular here, but neither Sen. Clinton nor Gov. Warner are appealing candidates to me, for different reasons.

    I can’t help feeling that we will go down like a rock if we nominate Hillary Clinton. She’s been wrong, aggressively wrong, on Iraq since the beginning. She is the very embodiment of ‘positioning’ rather than standing up for things she believes in. I doubt that any woman could get elected President in this country today, but surely such a widely disliked one is doomed.

    If it were true that Mark Warner were the only alternative, I could steel myself to get behind his campaign. Thankfully, it’s not true, or at least it’s way too soon to settle. Wes Clark has many appealing qualities and positions, and is no less qualified than Warner. He’s much more qualified in foreign and military policy. If Warner were to be the nominee, I fear he’d just inherit the same c.w. crowd that Sen. Clinton has waiting in the wings. Clark has a lot better chance to be his own person.

    But the idea that it’s all out of our hands two years out is … what’s the word? Oh yeah: un-democratic.

  11. I agree Jon-P, there is no shortgage of bloviating windbags on the Right, that is for certain

  12. If you don’t think that if Wes Clark was some how able to get the nomination that the same c.w. crowd would not flow into his campaign like water into a leaky boat, then you know something that I do not. Which I am sure you do, because I don’t know much!

    It is just my thinking, but he has never governed, so he has no machine speak to of; so he would be heavily reliant on the party machine to run a national campaign (no simple thing).

    Plus, on a superficial level, I think that Clark creeps out most people. Many told me this in ’04. He kind of looks like Dracula . . . man, those adds he ran in VA, where he never blinked!

    Another strike against him, in my book, is that he seems to suffer from the chronic and reflexive, TheOtherGuyIsAlwaysWrongNoMatterWhat-itis.

    My strong belief is that Warner is uniquely positioned to inherit this country’s coming political mood: disgust with ideologues, and partisanship. It is the logical out come of what people are seeing in DC at the moment.

    Do you know how golden, how priceless it is to hear a man, who has a bumper sticker on his truck that says, “Welcome to the South, Now Leave”; a man who had trouble holding down his lunch when someone would mentioned John Kerry; do you know how priceless it is to hear that guy say,”that Warner is a good man, I would vote for him in a heart beat, if he ran for President”

    You will find people like that all over VA, I bet we could find them in other states, too: like say Arkansas, Tennessee, New Mexico, West Virginia, so on and so on.

  13. I think Jon-P makes a great point about Clark being dependent on the party apparatus…although, to be fair, anyone would be who got to a certain level of poker. But what makes Warner different-at least to my way of thinking–is his occassional willingness to tell the national party ‘smart folks’ to take a hike whereas I’ve not seen that from Clark. To me, this is a key part of his appeal. Nell, enlighten me if you can on a position where Clark has broken with conventional party orthodoxy. Please note that I’m not ripping Clark in the least–I think he’s a great candidate. I’m just not sure I agree that he would be more independent than Warner were he to top the ticket.

  14. I actually think that Warner is more independent because he already has a machine that has won two elections.

    And if the NYT piece is correct, have the least amount of DC insiders, because they will all be working for Clinton.

    And if he is able to pull of the nomination, his organization well be even more battle hardened and well oiled; and less in need of outside support.

  15. My entire basis for hope is Wes Clark’s much saner position on Iran than Clinton/Bayh/Biden/etc. It’s the tiny, admittedly possibly-wishful-thinking scrap of evidence I have against Jon-P’s suspicions, which on some level I share.

    But now imagine Warner: how the hell would he even formulate a position on Iran? My guess: He’d just parrot what Bayh and Biden say. I freely admit I’m not a moderate. Bumper stickers like the one J-P mentions turn my stomach, and not because I’m “from up north” (my people go back 270 years in Rockbridge County). So if we need that guy’s vote, and we probably do, I’m not going to be your guide to getting it.

  16. Also, now that I’m re-reading the main post, let me just say how completely off base Bai is about why net/blog activists distrust Clinton. It’s got nothing to do with her being a ‘Washington fixture’ or with the difference between governing and campaigning. It’s because she is an Iraq hawk, who is unrepentant about it, and whose position is now even more out of synch with the base of her party than it was when she took it (out of the same political cowardice as Kerry and others) in fall 2002.

  17. I agree witht he others who have posted regarding Clinton’s chances. A Clinton nomination is a win for the R’s. At the same time, I’m not happy with Warner as a choice.

    Have to agree with Shayna here: “Demanding purity is bad, but so is demanding nothing.” The Democratic party is quickly becoming R-lite and that’s not where I want to be. We cannot continue to move farther and farther to the right, leaving behind the ideals of the left, most notably civil rights.

  18. As a follow up to my original post I must admit I’m less than thrilled that Warner is opposed to the gay marriage issue, but then considering it really is an entitlement issue and not a religion issue I’m not surprised. However I do think that issue would fare better with a dem president than with a republican.

    Additionally with regards to Hillary, she pretty much represents the stereotype of the “out of touch with the people / no message” democratic party (true or not).

    I’m less bothered by her position as an Iraq Hawk. I fall into the you break it you bought it philosophy on that issue. Wasn’t happy about the war when it started but we’re there now. The Dems that angered me with that issue were the ones that didn’t take a public position against the war at the get go because they were *afraid* of being branded as unpatriotic.. and then later tried to do the “we were misled” bullsh1t.

    Vivian Paige wrote:

    The Democratic party is quickly becoming R-lite and that’s not where I want to be.

    When I was growing up that pretty much was the definition of Virginia democrat. Anyone remember the saying, “In Virginia the Democrats are Republicans, and the Republicans are Birchers?” Compared to what passes for liberal in most other states Virginia Dems nationally have always looked more like moderates.

    And now that I’ve rambled for too long, I’ll wind this up by saying.. what I think is most important about Warner is of all the names being tossed around in my opinion he seems the most able to bridge the gap, and his positions don’t seem to far to any extreme (on either end of the political spectrum). And that’s a refreshing change, not to mention if you think the religous right is bad now.. wait until they have another 8 years with a republican president. It’s time for another Democrat in the White house.

  19. Nell,
    Thanks for the link . . . I had read about this idea somewhere and did not know it originated from Clark.

    Though there was some guy on Talk of The Nation, last month, saying a very similar thing: essentially we should force high level talks on the Iranians, make them behave like adults wether they like it or not.

    And the bumper sticker guy: Well I didn’t like that one bit, I mean I guess I thought it was a little funny, but I knew where things where going after that. Anyway, besides different politics, he turned out to be a decent enough guy.

    I wince a little bit every time some says Dems are becoming R-lite. I certainly understand and empathize with your desire to see our party take strong stands for our values. But we also have to stick to the big tent and realize that these more moderate or even conservative Dems, have chosen to to be Democrats for a reason (If they wanted to Republican-lite, well they could have simple been, Republican-lite)

    Anyway they chose Dem to represent certain values, and we share that, and we should focus on that!

    Speaking of bridging the gap, I strongly recommend everyone go to this article (I have been trying to push on every blog I comment on). I have been chewing on this all week. It is very pertinent to this discussion and can really make us take a fresh look at some our assumptions

    Remapping the Culture Debate
    by Garance Franke-Ruta


  20. TrvlnMn, I know that VA D’s are very conservative. But to me, that doesn’t have to be the national standard. Given the purported “big tent” of the D’s, everyone is welcome. (Of course, the “big tent” in VA -outside of NoVA – is a big lie, IMHO.)

    The issue for me is that by becoming R-lite, the Democratic party is leaving some of us, myself included, out. So where do we go?

    Jon-P – the article is a good one and one I put on my blog after reading about it on RK. It is good food for thought, no doubt.

  21. Just a thought, but most estimates I’ve seen put the number of women Democratic primary voters at 60% (in the early, key, primary states).

    My guess would be that this is a natural base that Senator Clinton can appeal and win the nomination. The combination of name recognition, money and a husband that is still the star of the Democratic party (can you imagine the crowds when he stumps for his wife?). My money is still on Clinton for the nomination.

    I don’t think she’s electable nationwide, Mark Warner probably is. Whether the Dem primary voters will wise up, I have no idea

  22. Vivian,

    I don’t know what to tell you but that if people put a D in front of their names, that means that you and them share some common ground. You just disagree with how to implement that common ground.

    In a two party system, the parties are inevitable going to be huge collations of sometimes conflicting interests . . . any of those parties that start to lose parts of their collations will suffer major defeat at the polls. I don’t have a problem with that, because I believe you can lobby for your interests–by finding the common ground–within the party mechanism.

    I am a BIG, BIG believer in compromise, in acknowledging the humanity of the person with whom you disagree, acknowledging that no matter how much you believe in something, there might be a better way to look at it. Find that COMMON ground, and find a solution to the problem.

    And you just have to realize that in a conservative state, where there are lots of relatively conservative people, successful politicians (via natural selection) are going to be relatively conservative.

    I hope this doesn’t sound wrong,(because I wrestle with this problem as well) but if you absolutely can’t stand that fact, and cant live with it at all, there are other more liberal states . . . I am not saying love it or leave it, I hope you don’t think that, these just seem like the facts on the ground.

    And I hope that you don’t leave and don’t stop advocating with in the party, because I believe that there is a valued place for liberals with strong beliefs, the conscience of the party so to speak.

  23. Jon-P

    If only it were a “natural selection” then I might buy your argument. Unfortunately, I ran for office last year and saw things I never expected to see in the supposed “big tent” of the Democratic Party. It has given me a completely different perspective on things – a perspective I honestly admit I wish I didn’t have. There is a lot of truth in “ignorance is bliss.”

    I’ve no plans to abandon the state which has been my home for more than 40 years. I will stay here and fight. But I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to agree with it.

  24. Vivian,

    I understand where you are coming from, and I wish that you didn’t have to have such a bad experience. I feel like there is a big void between our ideas of what politics can accomplish, and the actuality. Sometimes I reach a point where I can’t stand to be around the . . . well, the politicians!

    But I think what you are ran into is simply human nature: it can sometimes be nasty. Hey, but we both obviously stay active so we must be hopeful!

    And as Mr. Polticalopinon established,

    “I agree Jon-P, there is no shortage of bloviating windbags on the Right, that is for certain”

    So, all things being dequal: it can only be true, that if the dynamics would have been reversed, it is just as likely you could have been stabbed in the back by more liberal progressives.

    I have certainly seen that happen, here in Charlottesville! More than once.

Comments are closed.