Thursday, August 31, 2006

Democrats Need To Follow Warner's Lead

While Senator John Kerry continues to live in the past by once again complaining about the 2004 presidential election results in Ohio, former Virginia Governor Mark Warner is urging the Democratic party to rethink its electoral strategy for 2008.

In an interview with the Associated Press this week, Warner said "I got pretty frustrated after 2004. We are making a mistake if we put up candidates that are only competitive in 16 states and then we roll the dice and hope we win Ohio or Florida."

That is exactly what the last two presidential candidates did: Al Gore losing Florida and Kerry losing Ohio. What made the Gore defeat even more difficult for Democrats to stomach was the fact that he also lost Tennessee and Arkansas, his home state and Bill Clinton's home state. If you can't carry your home state, you've got a big problem.

Mark Warner recognizes that problem, which may be the biggest reason Democratic voters should take a very serious look at him as the 2008 race for the White House begins. Virginia is a state that hasn't voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1964. Not only did Warner win in Virginia and leave office with a high approval rating, he worked tirelessly to get his lieutenant governor, another Democrat, elected. He succeeded.

"We do our party and the country a disservice if we're not competitive in the South and the balance of the Midwest," Warner said. "I'm disappointed in campaigns that write off the South and leave behind wide swaths of our country."

Unfortunately, that type of campaign may happen again for the Democrats if the next nominee turns out to be Kerry, Gore or any of the other potential Democratic candidates. Do Democrats really think Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, Russ Feingold, Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson or Barack Obama can change their fortunes in the South? Even though John Edwards hails from South Carolina, can he as a one-term Senator from North Carolina carry either one of those states in an election? And although Joe Biden likes to brag that his state of Delaware was a former "Slave State," will that really do him any good in Mississippi or Georgia?

"We've got to have candidates who can campaign not only in Ames (Iowa), but at NASCAR races, candidates who can campaign in the barrio and changing communities," Warner said. "We've got to have a message that's more focused on solutions than simply focused on criticism."

A potential Warner candidacy puts a significant number of Southern states in the mix for the Democrats which haven't been there for a while. In addition to Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia become states where Mark Warner is not only known but where conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans will give a serious listen to. Other than possibly Edwards, no one else on the radar for the Democrats can do that.

Warner knows that the last two Democratic presidents were Southern governors. "History has been pretty kind to Southern governors over the last 50 years," Warner said. Unless something changes dramatically for the rest of the Democratic presidential contenders that increases their popularity below the Mason-Dixon line, it may be best for history to repeat itself for the Democrats to have a real shot in 2008. Otherwise, that map of the United States may have a familiar pattern of red and blue once again.

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