Final thoughts on Mark Warner

Thought I'd stick with the Democratic nomination campaign of 2008 and add in some final thoughts on Mark Warner (here's my earlier thoughts) based Ryan Lizza's recent article in The New Republic (subscription only).  I speculated that maybe Warner really did not want to run and really meant it when he said he wanted to spend time with his family.  After spending time with him on the campaign trail here are some of Lizza's comments on the matter:

But, no matter how well things seemed to
be going for Warner, privately he was filled with self-doubt. He had
built a machine that was hurling him forward toward a presidential race
that he actually didn't want to enter….

Up in the air flying home from his
successful but draining trip to New Hampshire, Warner turned around in
his seat to chat with me. It was his daughter's birthday, and, instead
of being with her, he had been buying garlic bread at a farmer's market
in Keene and answering hostile questions from TV reporters about why he
refused to denounce the Nevada caucuses as “reprehensible.” Even worse,
he was now trapped on a seven-seater airplane with a reporter who had
been shadowing him for an exhausting 48 hours. I pressed him on whether
he was really going to run. His response shocked me at the time. He
bent in close, looked me in the eye and asked, “Would you want to do this?”

Here's Lizza's conclusion (not all that different from mine):

Every governor or senator thinks about
running for president. Most do so because they are ambitious and see
the presidency as the next rung on America's political ladder. The big
question they often ask is strategic. How can I make it through the
process and get elected? In the end, that's not the question Warner
asked. His advisers swear that the nuances of the primaries and the
details of how to topple Hillary Clinton never came up in his final
deliberations. Warner asked not whether he could be president, but whether he should
be president. The irony of Warner's answer is that the kind of person
who dwells on that question is the kind of person you want to be
president.


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My thoughts on Obama

A lot of political discussion this week has been over Illinois Senator Barak Obama's admission on Meet the Press that he is seriously considering a run for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008.  The amount of attention this has generated says a lot about Obama and his potential chances.  Democrats are looking for an anti-Hillary and with Mark Warner dropping out there are not too many contendors for that role. 

Obama is a great political candidate who seems to have all the political intangibles that cannot be bought, i.e., charisma, instincts, great speaker, great intellect (though, that one unfortunately does not count for enough politically), etc.  But being a great political candidate is not the same as having a solid political resume.  I love all of Obama's intangibles but less than a full term in the U.S. Senate and time in the Illinois state Senate are far from the ideal credentials for a presidential candidate.  One of the reasons that Mark Warner seemed to have so much promise was that he was a very successful Democratic governor from a red state.  There's just not all that much Obama can do as a Senator to convince voters that he really has what it takes to be president.  If Obama would make a good president I think it is largely because of his intangibles and I don't think another term in the Senate would really make him all that much better prepared.  I personally have a strong bias for former governors– just not from Texas :-)– but I think it is better to have somebody with the right political skills and abilities from the Senate than to have a person lacking the essential political abilities coming from a governor's mansion.

The reason Obama is drawing so much political attention is because he truly has a rare (shall we say, “Clintonian” and I don't mean Hillary) set of political abilites.  Democrats are really hungry for a candidate with that potential superstar appeal that has not existed since Bill Clinton.  As a professional observer of politics, I think it would be fascinating to see how the conflict between his great skills but thin resume would play out in the primaries.  On the one hand, we already saw that to some degree with Edwards in 2004, but I suspect that Obama's tremendous abilities as a speaker give him a leg up on Edwards.  Here's hoping that we'll see. 

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