October 12, 2006

Warner Bothers

Hatched by Dafydd

As everybody and his monkey's uncle knows by know, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner -- who bowed out of a prematch with Sen. George Allen (R-VA, 100%), we all assumed so he could focus his energy on winning the 2008 Democratic nomination for president -- has now blown that one off, too:

Former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, who has been traveling across the country for more than a year exploring a bid for the White House, said today that, after “a lot of reflection, prayer and soul-searching,” he had decided not to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008....

He said his decision was based on family considerations, but he pointedly did not rule out another try for public office later on.

A centrist Democrat who has embraced some positions more commonly associated with Republicans, Mr. Warner has been widely regarded as an attractive presidential candidate, one who might run stronger in the South and other Republican regions than other Democrats. (For example, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the 2004 Democratic nominee, did not carry any of the 11 states of the old Confederacy.)

(Ignore the New York Times' sly dig at Bush in that last sentence -- Bush is a racist supported by Confederate-flag-loving Klansmen! "Forget it, Jake; it's Chinatown.")

Tom Bevan over at Real Clear Politics smells a fish:

This is shocking news. Unlike Kos, however, I'm not totally convinced by the explanation. Maybe it was a family decision, maybe it was something else. But when I saw Warner in Chicago back in April it seemed clear he was totally committed to runnning, and he hasn't offered the slightest hint in the seven months since then to indicate otherwise. He's gotten great press and been very well received by Democrats all across the country, so I find it hard to believe he'd just up and call it quits at this moment unless there is more to the story.

I don't know what "more to the story" Tom is thinking about. A pending scandal? Is young Mark being extorted by supporters of some other candidate? Does he have a medical problem? In any event, why he dropped is less interesting to me than what the effect of that drop will be.

(Michael Barone -- see link below -- tells a cute anecdote that relates to Bevan's suspicions:

As Prince Metternich asked when informed that the Russian ambassador had suddenly dropped dead, "What can have been his motive?"

So maybe we're too deep in the weeds...)

For such analyses, my first thought is always to turn to Power Line. Not that they necessarily have the best take on such events; but they're my security blanket... and whenever I must write about something on which my thoughts are conflicted, I always look there first, hoping they'll have something I can crib and pass off as my own sage wisdom.

They didn't, but they referred me to Michael Barone as a substitute security blanket; so "God's in His heaven -- all's right with the world!"

Barone's bottom line is that this benefits the Republicans. Let me break it down (there -- that's my original contribution; think of me as "Speaker to Gentiles" for Michael Barone):

  1. We have been at partisan stalemate for the last two presidential elections.

In 2000, the popular vote percentage was about 48 to 48; in 2004, it was 51 to 48 in favor of the Republicans. But this actually extends to Congress as well, where the vote has been very close for a number of elections, which is one reason neither party has made a serious gain over the other.

(Jay Cost has a wondrous explanation of the other reasons, which is a must read... also over on Real Clear Politics. Why can't we get Cost over here as a guest blogger instead of there? Oh, yeah; 2,000 vs. 100,000, or whatever they are now after being gobbled up by Time. But that's neither there nor here; so where is it?)

  1. In order to avoid repeated ballot-box nailbiters, one or the other party has to "break out of the box" (my words, or actually, my choice to use a vapid, overused metaphor) and find a way to appeal to those who voted for the other party last time.

That means a candidate clearly identified with one party, yet who has clear appeal to members of the other. Ronald Reagan was a perfect example of that: he had been a New Deal Democrat, then he was a conservative Democrat, then eventually a conservative Republican.

He was widely and personally popular from his many years on the public stage -- first literally, as a very good actor in B-movies (and a few A-movies, like Knute Rockne, All American -- Knute is pronounced "ka-newt," by the way; just thought you ought to ka-no); then figuratively, as a spokesman for General Electric giving political talks all around the country; as the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention that nominated Barry Goldwater; and later as governor of California. During both his presidential elections, Reagan appealed to Democrats as well as to Republicans.

There is nobody on the political scene today who even begins to approach the cross-party appeal of Ronald Reagan; still, neither party can expand its electoral vote without finding someone who at least moves in that direction.

  1. Mark Warner could have been such a figure.

He ran as a conservative Democrat against John Warner (R-VA, 88%), coming much closer than most imagined he would (he capitalized on conservative Republican dissatisfaction with the incumbent). Then he ran as a centrist for governer, won, and was perhaps the most popular governor in Virginia in many decades; when he left office this year, he had an approval rating of between 75% and 80%.

Clearly, Warner had excellent appeal in Virginia; but more than that, he could have eaten deeply into the Republican stronghold of the South: flip a third of the South's electoral votes, and the GOP's back would be up against the wall. (They could still win; but they would need their own "flipper" candidate to steal away normally Democratic votes in, say, New York. Hint hint.)

  1. With Mark Warner's departure, the only candidate left who could conceivably have such cross-party appeal is Sen. Barak Obama (D-IL, 100%); but Obama is a very iffy presidential candidate.

Obama's appeal to the right is based entirely upon treating them like mushrooms (keeping them in the dark and feeding them -- well, you know the aphorism). He has never played on the national stage in any way that his appeal could be measured. And of course, he is extraordinarily inexperienced, having served only a couple years of his first national Senate term. He gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a convention noted mainly for giving nominee Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA, 100%) no election bump whatsoever.

Other than Obama, the other candidates are extraordinarily party-polarizing:

  • Sen. and failed health-care seizer Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham (D-NY, 100%);
  • Former senator, vice president, failed presidential nominee, and hysteric Al Gore;
  • Sen., failed presidential nominee, and America denouncer John F. Kerry;
  • Former senator, failed vice-presidential nominee, and class warrior John Edwards.

Hillary    Rantin' Al

Sen. Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore (Gore is the one on the right)

JFK    Jedwards

Sen. JKF, Sen. John Edwards (Kerry served in Vietnam)

  1. But by contrast, there are several Republican candidates who have wide cross-over appeal.

The most obvious example is former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani (a.k.a., "America's mayor"); Giuliani tops everyone's short list of Republican candidates due to his strong and reassuring response to the 9/11 attacks; even the crazy lefties on a bulletin board I still sometimes frequent have little but praise for Giuliani.

There is little question that if Rudy Giuliani were the Republican nominee, he would trounce any of the known Democratic nominees, especially Hillary Clinton.

He is clearly more socially liberal than the great majority of the GOP... but that probably won't matter. If, as most of us believe, the only real issue right now is national security, then Republicans will probably overlook his support for abortion and embryonic stem-cell research (especially if the recent breakthrough allows such research to continue without killing embryos); they will base their primary votes on his national-security positions and experience vis-à-vis the other Republican candidates.

But Giuliani, unlike the cheese, doesn't stand alone. Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts clearly has strong support from Democrats, else he wouldn't have gotten elected in the first place. But he certainly is not as popular as governor as Mark Warner was in Virginia (though bear in mind that Virginia is nowhere near as "Republican" as Massachusetts is "Democratic").

If, as looks likely, Romney is attacked via his Mormonism either in the primaries or the general election, it will probably increase his appeal to both Republicans and Democrats: it's always a mistake to go after a man's religion, as those who attacked John F. Kennedy for being Catholic discovered.

Like it or not (the latter, in my case), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) has a lot of support from both Republicans and Democrats. But the continuing offense he gives Republican conservatives probably precludes him from being nominated. If he can get over that hurdle, however, he will be a formidable candidate who could, like Giuliani, probably knock off any Democratic candidate we know of at this point.

Sidebar: one interesting scenario that Barone doesn't consider: suppose Giuliani or Romney were nominated on the right, and Al Gore or Barak Obama were nominated on the left -- and McCain, deciding this was his last chance, were to run as an independent. What happens then? CW says that McCain would crush everybody; but I think that's awfully superficial.

Rather, I think McCain would draw very little of Giuliani's or Romney's voters, for the simple reason that so many Republicans already detest McCain (as a politician, however they might feel about him as a man); and those Republicans who are more moderate already would have their crossover candidate as the party nominee.

By contrast, I think he would draw away a lot of the Democrat's support: Gore clearly plays to what Paul Wellstone always used to call "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," and by the time of the election, Obama would have been unmasked as another lefty. So the moderates would have no champion in the wings, and many would be drawn to McCain -- even if they knew that would hurt Democrats in the election.

So in fact, an independent McCain candidacy might actually help the Republicans, too.

Thus, unless Republicans go mad in 2008 and nominate Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN, 92%), their standard bearer will probably be a candidate who has the potential to grab a number of blue states and win the sort of decisive victory we ordinarily associate with presidential battles. Mark Warner could have countered that on the Democratic side; but his withdrawal from the race leaves a huge advantage to the GOP.

Unless, of course, some previously unknown dark horse of a different color suddenly enters the fray for the Democrats... a Democratic "Eisenhower," that is. But I can't think of any such potential candidate: Colin Powell would not generate any enthusiasm on the right, and neither would Gen. Shinseki -- they would be more like the catastrophic miscalculation of the Democrats when they nominated General George B. McClellan to run against Abraham Lincoln in 1864; Lincoln crushed him, 212 to 21.

But back to Tom Bevan: why did Mark Warner drop out of the race? What can have been his motive?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 12, 2006, at the time of 6:29 PM

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The following hissed in response by: nk

Aaarrgh! That's a scream for both the Republican and Democrat choices you've given us, Dafydd. When Giuliani is the best of the bunch ... aaaaarrrgh!!!

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 12, 2006 7:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

I linked from Bill's Bites. Didn't excerpt anything for fear of leaving someone thinking they didn't need to read the whole thing.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 12, 2006 8:05 PM

The following hissed in response by: jp phish

The picture of Kerry caused an old thought of mine to re-surface. Compare a side profile or semi-side profile of Kerry to a picture of Castro.

It's obvious that Kerry is a Castro offspring; the person who went to Nam was John Kerry and the person who returned was Castro Jr.

The Communists did a switch; Kerry is a commie plant!

The above hissed in response by: jp phish [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 12, 2006 8:56 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Frankly I would be much happier if you smart guys on the internet were spending this much energy figuring ways to turn back the results of this latest October surprise of the dems and GOTV and put the dems where they belong: on defense - for this election, not the one two years out.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2006 2:32 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

I can't believe that Warner is out. Possibly the sole Democrat that could have won the race. There is a lot more to that story.

I disagree on one issue. Colin Powell could win, if he could get nominated (a big if), same as McCain.

You forgot to figure the possible one-two combos. Say Guliani/Pataki? Romney/Rice? McCain/Powell? Sheesh, I could do this all day.

Also, is it just me, or is John Edwards a bad joke? A former lass action lawyer for President? Never gonna happen.

It looks pretty hopeless for the Dems.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2006 9:19 AM

The following hissed in response by: yetanotherjohn

I think Rudy would have a good chance of holding the red states of 2004 and flipping NY and/or NJ. I'm not sure where else he could flip, but his appeal is such that he might flip more.

I don't think Romney could flip Mass. or its environs. While Romney could do his part of ensuring Utah (like Cheney did his part and delviered Wyoming) I don't see anywhere outside of the NE he even has a hope of flipping a blue state.

I think the media view of McCain says he could flip some blue states, but I am not sure which ones. Now McCain as a third party candidate is a real scary proposition to me. The hard core base of the right or the left would not follow him. But remember the GOP has been winning with a big tent philosophy and there are a number of people in that tent less because they like the company and more because they dislike the confines of the small democratic tent. My gut guess is that McCain would pull 2/3 of his support from people who would otherwise vote republican and 1/3 from those who would otherwise vote democratic. Thus I see him as more of a threat to the GOP than the democrats.

The democrat left is sick of losing. Not so sick they are willing to moderate or temper their views, but sick enough they are willing to hide them from the larger voting populace. By 2008, I think they will be looking to win and would support Nixon if he would denounce the war and the corpse didn't smell to bad. The democratic field certainly looks strange going into 2008, especially without Warner. Hillary seems to be trying the Bush 2000 tactic of tying up all the money for the primaries. I agree with Barone that the more crowded the field, the better for her. She needs to not allow opposition against her within the democratic party coallasce around one alternative to stop her. Warner's biggest threat to her was not that he was to her right, but that from a practical standpoint he looked to be able to flip at least Virginia and stood the potential for flipping more. Just as the right may be willing to overlook social views in Rudy they would deride in a democrat because they trust him in the war, the left would have forgiven Warner almost any view except support of the war if they thought he would let them win (note that one says defending the country is the highest goal while the other says winning the election is the highest goal).

The above hissed in response by: yetanotherjohn [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2006 10:06 AM

The following hissed in response by: tomlynk

Concentrating on the presidential candidate creates tunnel vision. It is very likely that if Kerry had chosen Mark Warner as his VP instead of Edwards, he would be in the White House now.
JFK the first won in 1960 by virtue of LBJ bringing in the Southern vote. As close as the elections have been running lately the choice of VP could make the difference between winning or losing.

The above hissed in response by: tomlynk [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2006 10:33 AM

The following hissed in response by: JGUNS

I don't know about that analysis. I think that most of the "centrists" would vote for an independent McCain and I think that could only hurt Republicans.Only the staunchest conservatives really detest McCain enough to stick to the Republican candidate. I believe that the polls done in the blogosphere reflect the most knowledgable conservatives. I think a majority of Republican voters are not as knowledgable as those who frequent the blogs and therefore, are not as likely to dislike McCain. As such, they are probably more likely to admire his supposed "centrist" views and less likely to stand on principle against him. Liberals and democrats have shown that they don't care who is running as long as they have a D next to their name they will stick together and vote for him. So I don't see any democrats splitting off to vote for McCain in any great number. I think what would happen is exactly what happened with Perot. An independent McCain would be dangerous to Republican hopes for victory.

The above hissed in response by: JGUNS [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2006 11:56 AM

The following hissed in response by: Don

"would support Nixon if he would denounce the war and the corpse didn't smell to bad."

Well they didn't pick Nixon but they did nominate a corpse - or at least an undead. Look at Dafydd's pic of Kerry and tell me he doesn't belong in a Munster movie. You can't.

Perhaps they will nominate the hobbit (Edwards) next time.

The above hissed in response by: Don [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2006 1:04 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Big D:

I love the image of John Edwards as "a former lass action lawyer for President." Did he work for Clinton?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2006 1:15 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


The democrat left is sick of losing. Not so sick they are willing to moderate or temper their views, but sick enough they are willing to hide them from the larger voting populace.

I agree they're sick of losing; but the ones I read are utterly convinced that the reason Democrats have been losing is that they try to be too moderate. The solution, believes the Left, is for Democrats to run to the left. Hard left.

They point to perennial winners like John Conyers and Charlie Rangel, Carl Levin and Chuck Schumer, not realizing that (a) they have the power of incumbency, and (b) they run from very left-leaning districts. None could win a national election.

But as the Left loses and loses, its response is likely to be to mover further and further to the left. If the Democrats are to win again, it will be because the moderate wing takes control from the hard-left wing.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2006 1:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: bigger

As a conservative/libertarian resident of MA let me tell you why Mitt Romney won with democratic support:
the state is so F*d up there really is no republican party locally, and the dems control everything, which means the only way to keep them from stealing everything is to have a non-Dem governor. After Romney won I was driving down to providence with a well known local SF fan who kept ranting on his incredulity that "that "f*ing Morman" was elected. He was elected because every member of his female dem opponent's was a state employee, most of them court clerks making something like $100,000 a year.
The same "dem ubiquity" effect will probably mean his Lt. Gov will replace him (she is running against Deval Patrick, a black lawyer.)
Just how the 'dem ubiquity' effect is supposed to transfer to other states, I really don't know. Personally I'd vote for Giuliani and anyone but McCane.

The above hissed in response by: bigger [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2006 6:48 PM

The following hissed in response by: yetanotherjohn


I agree with you that there is a loud and surprizingly sizable portion of the left who see any moderation as the problem and a hard to port turn as the solution. The stopped clock theory says that if they keep it up, they will eventually gather some data to support that view (maybe its 2006, who knows).

The question is how they break out of the death spiral, One option is they go the way of the whigs and get replaced by a different coallition. They may continue on in the way of the socialists, libertarians, communist, etc parties, but the will fade away with a whimper. Another option is as you describe that someone with sanity will get control of the party and lead them away from the hard left turn and towards a middle course. A third option is that they simply lose enough that all but the most recalcitrant step back and question what is going on.

Ironically, one of the worst things for the left would be if they won both chambers. Bush could veto anything to outrageous. They would either wake up to their responsibilities (which would mean a turn from the hard left), start frothing at the mouth as they investigate every conspiray theory the left has and thus expose their true nature to the electorate or simple be the do nothing party in the majority vs in the minority.

It is now time to hum a Debbie Reynolds tune about the future being what the future will be.

The above hissed in response by: yetanotherjohn [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 14, 2006 8:07 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D


In erroris, verum.

I think. My latin is a little rusty.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 16, 2006 10:02 AM

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