Sunday, March 12, 2006

Required Reading

Major article on Mark Warner in particular and Democratic Party politics in general in today's NYT magazine. A key paragraph:
So formidable are the obstacles to challenging Clinton that even a lot of party operatives who don't think she's the best candidate are likely to work for her, just to be on the winning side. And this is precisely the strategy that her team has thus far cultivated. Just as Karl Rove set out to make George W. Bush's nomination seem inevitable in 2000, successfully freezing much of the money and talent that might have flowed to his competitors, so, too, do Clinton's advisers seem to be sending out signals that resistance is not only futile but also dangerous. When I asked Warner's aides for permission to attend some of his policy briefings in January, word came back that the outside experts who had been asked to make presentations, some of whom worked in the Clinton administration, balked because they were afraid the Clinton camp would find out that they were granting courtesies to another candidate. No one wants to cross the party's presumed nominee.
And one more:
The question for a potential candidate like Mark Warner is just what kind of outsider he intends to be. The problem with Warner's theory of the race — that he can run, like Carter and Clinton, as a centrist, electable Southern governor — is that neither Carter nor Clinton had the misfortune of having to unseat a de facto nominee. They ran as outsiders pounding at the door of the party apparatus, but the weary party more or less invited them in. That won't happen in 2008. If Hillary Clinton does decide to run, the best Warner or any other rival can hope for is that this next election will be more like 1984, when Mondale, the insider, had to use every advantage at his disposal, including the superdelegates, to hold off Gary Hart's torrid attack on the interest groups that made up the Democratic establishment.
I live in suburban Maryland just outside DC, so I get my share of Virginia political news, and though I can verify that Warner was very popular in NOVA, it bares mentioning that most of Virginia considers NOVA as suspect as Red China (just across from the District, the county that would have been SW DC is known, to the Virginia GOP, as the Peoples Republic of Arlington).
On the biggest issue in NOVA, the blocked colons of traffic, Warner managed to initiate improvements without pissing off everyone, or to put it another and perhaps incongruously better way, he managed to make improvements while pissing off everyone equally. That's a distinction worth noting. While it's a worn cliche to say that if everyone's mad than you've found the middle, it takes no skill to piss everyone off; it does, however, take real political savvy to anger everyone and still affect real change.

But... I do not completely buy the Hillary the Inevitable line, though articles such as this one, a lengthy piece on a fresh Democratic face, in which what will be taken by most readers is not the profile of Mark Warner but the indelible meme of Hillary's already sewn-up nomination, doesn't give those of us praying for a bracingly clean but contentious campaign much hope. Putting aside whether Clinton would be a good candidate and a good president (not so much the first, very good the second, imho), the very thing that would help Clinton the most if she does become the Democratic nominee in 08 IS a cleanly bruising primary campaign. And Warner is the best opponent to give it to her.

Which makes him odds-on favorite to be her running-mate (should Obama say no).


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