Warners and Gilmore and Davis, Oh My!

Senator John Warner (R-VA) has scheduled an announcement today in Charlottesville.  It is assumed his announcement will concern his putative reelection campaign in 2008.  Speculation is that Warner will announce he will not seek another term in the United States Senate.

Many are happy about this, and I imagine more than equal number will not be. However, to paraphrase a comment made at the death of FDR, his retirement will set off the damndest scramble for power this state has ever seen.

Not since the death of J. Sarge Reynolds in 1971 have so many plans been hinged or unhinged on the actions of fate of one man. James Martin at RK lists the various scenarios that kick in if Warner retires.

Personally, I hope he runs again. I don’t agree with much he has done, but John Warner has stood up for Virginia interests, especially with the armed services, and losing thirty years of seniority is not a happy thing to have happen.

By the same token, personally I do not think he will. While I think he would win if he ran, the man is 80+ and probably wants to rest. By the same token will he be so willing to let slip the office he has known and loved for almost thirty years.

Well, if he runs then I am wrong and life continues. Assuming he steps down, things get interesting.

Former Governor Mark Warner is the likely democratic nominee, and just has to be the starting block favorite. GOP congressman Tom Davis has had an eye on the Senate for years, and if rumors are to be believed got advance warning from Senator Warner that Davis should gird his loins for the 2008 campaign. Then there is Jim Gilmore, recently returned from the campaign trail after closing down a presidential nomination bid that-judging from news coverage-many people didn’t know existed in the first place. At this point I think he definitely will be a candidate.

Why, because he has to be…in fact, the same is true for Mark Warner.

I have posted before that I think different personalities are needed to be a successful governor as opposed to a successful legislator. I think both Mark Warner and Jim Gilmore, neither of whom have shown a real interest in the legislative branch. They both made their reputations in executive positions either in business or government. In fact, both men had their only losing electoral races in legislative elections-Warner, US Senate in 1996 and Gilmore, Virginia House of Delegates in the early 1980’s. About a month ago I posted why I thought Gilmore was far better suited by personality to be governor than senator.

But now the moment has come, and Gilmore has to run for the Senate, as does Mark Warner.

Tom Davis doesn’t have to run, but he will. His seat is becoming more competitive as Fairfax turns more blue, and he may think it easier to run statewide with nomination argument that he can cut into the massive numbers that were rolled up by Kaine and Webb. His wife faces a tough reelection campaign for the Virginia state senate against Chap!, and a loss in that race will further convince the local demos that they can take the 11th. Besides, Davis has wanted to be a Senator since he was a little politico. Nonetheless, Davis has options, and will run for the US Senate because he wants to, not because he has to.

Things are not the same for Gilmore and Mark Warner. While both-in my estimation-are better suited tempermentally for the governor’s mansion, their own ambitions necessitate them running in 2008. Interestingly enough, their problems are almost exactly polar opposites. All they have in common is they want to be back in public office.

Gilmore’s best shot to get back is in 2008, because he is not scaring off anyone for 2009.  LtGov Bill Bolling and AG Bob McDonnell have both indicated they will not readily give way to Gilmore for the GOP governor’s nod in 2009.  There is even the possibility of a George Allen back from the grave candidacy.  Gilmore did not leave office in a blaze of glory, and given the potential field Gilmore could actually run fourth in a nomination campaign.

But in a Senate race, he gets to go head to head with Tom Davis.  Davis is Gilmore’s polar opposite.  Gilmore is verrry conservative, Davis is that kind of creature who is a conservative to the country at large but a moderate to many elements in the GOP.  Gilmore has twice run and won statewide, plus a nomination win against Steve Agee in 1993.  Davis has a series of convincing wins for BOS and congress, but has never run statewide.   Gilmore will face a fundraising disadvantage against Davis, but that is just part of the woodwork.  If Gilmore doesn’t run in 2008, he may not have a chance to run statewide until 2012…and by then a new group of candidates will have likely emerged.  Ambition demands Gilmore run in 2008

Mark Warner has the opposite problem.  There is no one in the Democratic Party who wants to oppose him.  In fact they encourage him to run for about any office that comes open.  Warner has to run in 2008 for a few reasons:

1. He is not going to be the VP nominee.  When all is said and done, Warner has served one term as governor.  Many consider it a successful term, but it is only one term.  Moreover, he pulled from the presidential race citing family.  Can he realistically come back a year later and say things have changed so much he can take the #2 slot?  Others have better records and claims (like Bill Richardson) to the #2 slot.  He is too close geographically to John Edwards and Hillary, and I don’t know that he is too close to Obama.  Richardson is a perfect ticket balancer for Edwards, and a little less so for Obama and Hillary (two minorities on the ticket in the former case, and two Clintonistas in the latter).  But in the Obama situation how does a ticket fly that has a candidate for president with 4 years in the senate and a candidate for VP with 4 years as governor?  I don’t think it will.  Bottom line-if Mark Warner wants to go national, he has to shore up his credentials.  If he wins a senate race in 2008 (age 54 at that point), then he is well positioned for 2012 or 2016 (depending on presidential results in 2008 and 2012).

2. The Paul Trible example.  In 1988 US Senator Paul Trible announced he would not run for reelection against the announced Democratic candidate Chuck Robb.  Trible, clearly the strongest candidate the GOP could put up that year, said family concerns made him decide not to run.  Many GOP types-yours truly included-felt he chickened out in the face of what would be a tough campaign.  Robb goes on to win in 1988.  Come 1989, Trible announces he will run for the GOP nomination for governor, citing his undefeated electoral record, conservative credentials, etc.  Trible gets nailed in the GOP primary by Marshall Coleman, who had already lost a statewide race for governor to Robb in 1981 and an attempt at the GOP nod for Lt. Gov in 1985.  Coleman, however, had never backed away from a fight and many GOP voters preferred to go with the scarred contender who never ran versus the pristine, undefeated choice who hid in his tent when his party needed him.

Yeah, the prose is purple, but it’s friday AM and the caffeine is pumping! 

If Warner doesn’t run in 2008 for an open senate seat and the GOP holds the seat, then his party cred is hurt.  Like Trible, some will say Warner his in his tent when his party needed him.  If Warner has any national aspirations, he has to go in 2008 no matter how much he might prefer going back to Richmond.  Sometimes you fight the election you have to fight, and not the election you want to fight.  Again, ambition demands Warner run in 2008.

We shall see.  If Senator John Warner runs, politicans on both sides of the aisle in Virginia will scatter like leaves in an autumn wind to get out of his way.  If he doesn’t, a political domino effect kicks in with uncertain results but for one…Ambition demands Gilmore and Mark Warner run in 2008 if John Warner doesn’t-and run they will.

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One thought on “Warners and Gilmore and Davis, Oh My!

  1. Pingback: University Update - Jim Gilmore - Warners and Gilmore and Davis, Oh My!

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