National face time and the U.S. Senate
After Warner’s gubernatorial term ended in January of 2006, there was much buzz about him running for president in 2008. Buzz so loud that in October of 2006 Mark Warner made national political news when he announced he was not running for president. Warner instinctively knew he needed some national face time if he was ever going to make a serious run at the White House.
If luck is when preparation meets opportunity, then Mark Warner had all three when in August of 2007 Senator John Warner (no relation) announced his retirement after 30 years in the Senate. This meant an open seat for the 2008 election, which to Mark Warner was the political equivalent of sweet low-hanging fruit.
It was only fitting that Mark Warner run for John Warner’s open Senate seat — for the younger Warner knew it was easier to replace John Warner than run against him, because he had already done that.
Back in 1996, in his first attempt at elective office, then virtually unknown, self-made multi-millionaire businessman Mark Warner challenged popular incumbent Senator John Warner in what became a hotly contested race known as Mark vs. John.
Mark Warner’s Senate campaign bumper stickers actually read “Mark Not John.”
In November 1996, Mark Warner lost respectably to Senator John Warner, 47.4% to 52.5%, but Mark was perceived as a winner for the tough fight he waged against the iconic three-term senator running for his fourth term. All agreed this young Warner had a bright political future.
So now we are back in mid-2008 and Senate candidate Mark Warner is ahead by about 30 points, sailing to an easy victory against former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore. During this time Warner appears on Obama’s long list for VP running mate, but Warner took himself off that list to pursue his Senate seat, as reported by USA Today in June of 2008.
Then Senate candidate Mark Warner receives a call from Obama asking him to be the 2008 Democratic National Convention keynote speaker.
(Political junkies will remember that back in 2004 it was presidential nominee John Kerry who asked an unknown Illinois Senate candidate named Barack Obama to be the convention keynote speaker. Could this keynote speaker thing be a secret code for Democrats?)
As predicted, on November 4, 2008, Mark Warner won his Senate race with 65% of the vote.
But what was not predicted was how Obama would turn Virginia “blue” for the first time since President Lyndon Johnson won the state in 1964. This phenomenon is a segue to one of the most important reasons why Obama needs Mark Warner on his 2012 ticket.
Virginia as a new swing state
Mark Warner’s popularity and influence in his adopted home state could be a deciding factor in determining which presidential ticket wins Virginia’s 13 electoral votes in 2012.
The shade of “blue” that Obama turned Virginia in November 2008 was a very light baby blue, because exactly a year later Virginia was back in the red state column when Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell staged a spectacular eighteen-point gubernatorial blow-out victory over state Senator Creigh Deeds.
Then the nation watched as another potential “national star” Virginia governor was born.
The key to Bob McDonnell’s decisive victory was winning back all those independent voters who had put Obama over the top a year earlier.
The president was coaxed to Virginia only once to campaign for Deeds, because Obama’s “hope and change” magic dust that he had sprinkled over Virginia in November of 2008 had long evaporated by November of 2009.
From a historical perspective, Virginia claims eight presidents, but it has not seen one since Woodrow Wilson. With this in mind, do not downplay what I call the “Virginia presidential pride factor,” for Mark Warner could be the state’s best shot for long awaited number nine. He could garner votes from older voters who actually care about this.
Keeping Virginia “Obama blue” will be a major objective for Mark Warner as Obama’s VP running mate, for his boss will really be counting on him to deliver the state in 2012.
Obama’s ambassador to business land
Senator Warner could be extremely effective building new bridges to the business community, since the Obama administration has been accused by business leaders of fostering an anti-business climate, which has resulted in a slow recovery with high unemployment.
As Obama’s running mate, Warner, the former venture capitalist, could serve as Obama’s roving ambassador, able to be deployed on dangerous diplomatic missions to hostile territories such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The trip to the top is faster without baggage
Mark Warner is known as a squeaky clean family man. He is not a rock star in the Hillary/Obama mold, but has a reputation as a brilliant political strategist who actually enjoys getting out and pressing the flesh on the campaign trail. Since no one outside of the D.C. area has ever heard of Mark Warner, after he is selected as Obama’s running mate, his image could be carefully crafted to play in Peoria.
While in the Senate, Warner has been a quiet freshman and has virtually disappeared from the national scene. But when the VP buzz starts, he will make a strong reentry and be very useful to Obama for fundraising, thanks to his own deep pockets and his many friends with their own deep pockets.
The Obamas already know that Mark Warner and his very low-profile wife, Lisa Collis (note: she does not use the name Warner), would not pull a Sarah Palin and overshadow either Barack or Michelle on the campaign trail. That is likely an important consideration for both the president and first lady in selecting a new VP running mate.
Best of all, there are no obvious skeletons in Mark Warner’s closet. Unless one considers excessive ambition a form of baggage. For according to Mark Warner’s Wiki profile:
When his parents visited him at college at George Washington University in DC, he obtained two tickets for them to tour the White House. When his father asked him why he didn’t get a ticket for himself, he replied, “I’ll see the White House when I’m president.”
The second spot in 2012 means the first shot in 2016
Warner is eminently qualified to step in as president if the unspeakable happens.
More likely, however, Warner would be in a premium position as the 2016 Democratic frontrunner from two perspectives. First, as the sitting vice president running for “Obama’s third term,” and second, if Obama is defeated in 2012 (assuming the press does not hold Warner responsible for Obama’s loss), then Warner would be the natural frontrunner in 2016 to unseat the White House occupants who were victorious over Obama/Warner in 2012.
Unexpected plot twists
If 2012 turns into a Hillary vs. Obama rematch, with Hillary launching a successful primary challenge and defeating Obama, my prediction still stands. For I am confident Hillary would also select Mark Warner as her running mate for all the aforementioned reasons.
(History buffs will know that the only incumbent president who has ever been denied the nomination by his own party was President Franklin Pierce in 1856.)
Bonus reason for predicting Obama/Warner 2012
An Obama/Warner ticket would be historic, for it would be the first time two Harvard Law School graduates ran on the same ticket. That alone should keep Glenn Beck hopping with some great new material!