Origins of World War I

Mark Warner

Matt Bai on Mark Warner, an unknown southern governor who is thus qualified to win a presidential election in America today:

The Fallback - New York Times: By MATT BAI: A few weeks before we spoke, Korge had lunch at the Capital Grille in Miami with Mark Warner, who was then in his final weeks as Virginia's governor. Though little known nationally, Warner has emerged in recent months as the bright new star in the constellation of would-be candidates, a source of curiosity among Democrats searching for a charismatic outsider to lead the party. Pundits credit Warner's popularity in Republican-dominated Virginia -- his 80 percent approval rating when he left office made him one of the most adored governors in the state's history %u2014 with enabling his Democratic lieutenant governor, Tim Kaine, to win the election to succeed him last November. Suddenly, Warner is being mentioned near the top of every list of candidates vying for the nomination in 2008.

Over lunch with Korge and his real-estate partner, Warner made what has become, more or less, his standard pitch. Much as he likes John Kerry and worked hard for him in Virginia, Warner said, the Democratic Party had once again, in 2004, nominated a candidate who could not appeal on a cultural level to white, small-town voters in wide swaths of the country. Warner argued that he was more likely than any of the other potential Democratic candidates to break that cycle. The candidate he was really talking about, of course, was Clinton. It wasn't that she wouldn't do a great job in the White House, necessarily; what Warner was saying, without actually saying it, was that she couldn't get there. Democrats, he liked to say, could not afford to keep trotting out nominees who could expect to win only 16 blue states and then hope, just maybe, for the "triple bank shot" that might deliver Ohio or Florida. They needed a candidate who could compete everywhere....

Warner's meeting with Korge was an unqualified success. "In my opinion, he's the one to watch as an outsider in this race," Korge told me. "He seems presidential. He's a big guy." (By this he meant, literally, that Warner is well over six feet tall, with a well-coiffed head that requires extra-large baseball caps.) "I think he has a presence. He's very confident. He speaks very well, but he also can speak plainly to people."...

The negative rap on Warner is a lack of relevant experience; he's a one-term governor (he would still be in office if Virginia allowed its governors to serve consecutive terms), and critics argue that a credible candidate needs to have foreign-policy experience to run in the new, terror-obsessed world. Nonetheless, Warner, on paper, fits the party's most conventional and tested idea of what constitutes an electable candidate. Though he doesn't speak with a drawl (he grew up in Indiana, Illinois and Connecticut and moved to Virginia when he was 32), Warner was the popular centrist governor of a Southern state -- just like the last two Democrats to actually win the White House, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. He's also really, sickeningly wealthy. As a co-founder of the cellular-telephone company that ultimately became Nextel, Warner has access to a personal fortune that is said to approach $200 million, and he has already demonstrated, during an unsuccessful run for the Senate and then in his gubernatorial campaign, that he's willing to use it.

Because of his previous life as a businessman, Warner is also expected to tap a network of donors in the high-tech and venture-capital fields who are outside the orbit of traditional Democratic fund-raising, just as Bill Bradley did when he ran against Al Gore in 2000.... When a lot of National Democrats first took note of Warner in 2001, they didn't love what they saw. Running for governor in a state where Democrats were in sharp retreat, Warner courted the National Rifle Association and let it be known he'd support parental notification for minors seeking abortions. His outreach to Nascar devotees and bluegrass fans in southern Virginia struck Democrats in the urban North -- as well as many of those across the Potomac River in Washington -- as unseemly pandering.

Warner was determined, however, not to let Republicans portray him as a cultural elitist. He never made any pretense of being an avid hunter or Nascar fan himself; he's a Presbyterian who wears pressed khakis, and he spends weekends at his private farm and vineyard outside historic Fredericksburg. But Warner, who is 51, grew up mostly in small towns, in a middle-class family, and in the 2001 campaign he made it clear that he genuinely appreciated the cultural pastimes of his rural voters. The respect he showed was reciprocated. Five years ago, I watched voters at the annual fiddlers' festival in Galax, Va., clap Warner on the back and dance along to his campaign song, an impossibly catchy bluegrass tune, while his Republican opponent, the state's former attorney general, milled about uncomfortably. Even after the terrorist attacks that September, which froze the campaign and rallied the country around the president and the Republican Party, Warner won by five points, scoring more support in rural Virginia than any Democrat in recent memory.

Considering that he has served only four years in government, Warner has plenty to brag about. Relentlessly wooing his Republican Legislature at a time when the two parties in Washington were growing ever more belligerent toward each other, Warner managed to erase a potentially catastrophic $6 billion budget shortfall by working out a bipartisan deal to raise some taxes (on sales and cigarettes) and lower others (on income and food). He passed the plan, in part, by selling it in frequent meetings with voters across the state, earning him a reputation as a nonpartisan deal maker who was willing to deliver unpopular news.

Warner's constant theme, which a lot of Washington politicians talk about but few seem to actually understand, was the need to modernize for a global economy. The days when you could walk down the street and get a job at the mill were over, Warner would say, and new jobs -- the state gained more than 150,000 of them on his watch -- would require new skills and infrastructure. So Warner, working with Nascar, pushed through an accelerated program that enabled 35,000 more Virginians to get high-school equivalency degrees, and he introduced a program to deliver broadband capacity to 20 Southern counties. "In the 1800's, if the railroad didn't come through your small town, the town shriveled up and went away," he told me once, explaining his rural program. "And if the broadband Internet doesn't come through your town in the next few years, the same thing will happen."

If he ultimately decides to run for president, Warner will try to build a national campaign around this same technology-driven approach. When I asked Warner to name the issues that would be most important to him, the four domestic issues he ticked off, before he got to terrorism and national security, were fairly standard for a Democratic candidate in the era after Bill Clinton: slashing the federal deficit, improving schools, working with business to reform the health-care system and devising a new energy strategy. What makes Warner, the former entrepreneur, sound more credible than your average Democrat is that he comes at these issues primarily from an economic, rather than a social, standpoint. On health care, for instance, most Washington Democrats will, as a matter of both habit and perspective, talk about the moral imperative of covering workers and the uninsured -- and only then might they add, as an afterthought, that the current morass is an impediment to business too. Warner, on the other hand, begins with the idea that if American businesses can't keep up with spiraling health-care costs, the nation will lose the competition with India and China for jobs. The same principle applies with education and the deficit. His fixation on the global economy brings a coherent framework to issues that otherwise seem disparate and abstract....

Among the wealthy contributors and liberal activists who have met Warner recently, the most common observation is that he genuinely listens. "I think he will, over time, find a very strong following here," Mark Gorenberg, a San Francisco venture capitalist, told me. An important player in the politics of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, which has supplanted Los Angeles as the epicenter of Democratic money on the West Coast, Gorenberg was Kerry's top bundler in the last election, and he told me he remains part of Kerry's national "leadership team." But Warner clearly impressed him: "He's a very interesting candidate, especially to the tech industry. He's garnered a lot of interest out here. What he's done differently is that he hasn't raised money. He's the only one who comes out here mostly to meet people."... ..