Last week I was surprised and more than a little bit disappointed to learn that former Virginia governor Mark Warner had decided not to pursue the Democratic Party's nomination for president in 2008. He had been an early favorite of mine to snag the nomination for a number of reasons, tops among them being he had been a successful chief executive in a marginally southern state, and as we all know, southern governors have had some success seeking the Oval Office over the last few decades (see: Bush II, Clinton, Carter). I'm not a big fan of members of Congress seeking the presidency if for no other reason than it rarely comes to fruition given that the last Senator to successfully do so was JFK back in 1960 (and even then only barely given some amount of alleged chicanery with the mob in Chicago). For whatever reason, going through Congress is rarely a successful formula for getting to the White House. And yet, beyond Warner, that is what most of the Democratic field looks like at this point.
So, why did he drop out? The Washington Post's reporting of the announcement follows:
Former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner unexpectedly announced Thursday that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, citing the personal toll a run for the White House would have on his family.
In a statement released shortly before his 11 a.m. press conference here, Warner said, "This has been a difficult decision, but for me, it's the right decision." … "I know these moments are never going to come again. This weekend made clear what I'd been thinking about for many weeks — that while politically this appears to be the right time for me to take the plunge — at this point, I want to have a real life.
"And while the chance may never come again, I shouldn't move forward unless I'm willing to put everything else in my life on the back burner."
I suppose that if his heart wasn't 100% into it, then he probably shouldn't run because one would think that nothing short of a total commitment would be necessary in such a long and draining endeavour. That being said, it does not appear that Warner will shuffle off into the sunset just yet, as Kos notes:
His love for the office of governor is well-known, so he would be considered a shoo-in for the governorship in 2009 if he chooses that route. (Virginia governors cannot serve consecutive terms.) Better yet, he would be a strong candidate for the Senate seat in 2008, regardless whether John Warner (R) runs again or not. But, if the rumors are true and John Warner retires, that would be as close to a guaranteed pickup as you can get in politics. (His Republican challenger would likely be Rep. Tom Davis.)
Steve Soto over at The Left Coaster concurs with this assessment and gives a little more insight as to why he dropped out:
The reason why Mark Warner dropped out of the presidential derby for 2008 yesterday was that he is thinking about running for the John Warner's Senate seat as John Warner is retiring. Barring that, as the New Republic's Ryan Lizza reports, Mark Warner would consider a run for his old job as governor in 2009.
Mark Warner would have little trouble grabbing John Warner's Senate seat in 2008, and clearly he thought that the near-sure thing of a Senate victory in 2008 was better than the grueling uphill struggle against Team Hillary and perhaps Team Obama that same year. As Harold Meyerson noted in Tapped Online late yesterday, the problem for Warner and even Evan Bayh is that Hillary has positioned herself already on the center-right of the party as the DLC heir, and any attempt by Warner or Bayh to run to her right was doomed to be ignored and underfunded in relative terms.
Soto further isn't buying the 'family' angle to Warner dropping out:
I find it hard to believe that Warner embarked on this campaign, hired dozens of staff around the country, brought aboard ... pros to set up a good netroots capability, raised millions of dollars, and just now realized that running a presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008 would require a huge family sacrifice.
Whatever his reasons, I still believe it to be a blow to the Democratic field. While I still felt he had some way to go before he had captured that "presidential air", it was still early in the process and I felt that once the primary season started to get rolling he would do well.
I've spent more than my share of time handicapping the GOP field, (my latest thoughts are here) but not as much with the Dems as, at least at this point, all signs point to Hillary which is something that I am not necessarily on board with (was that diplomatic enough). If I had to pick today, I suppose that I would consider giving another look at John Edwards. Wesley Clark also intrigrues me, and moreso than he did back in 2004 since you could tell at the time what a political novice he was. Given the last couple of years he has spent honing his persona, I feel he would be a much more effective campaigner this time around. Still, I believe that Warner was the man to take down the Hillary machine and his removal from the picture certainly does not hurt Hillary's return to the White House.