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2008 Va. Senate Race: Reading the Tea Leaves

With John Warner announcing today that he will leave the U.S. Senate at the end of his current term, the scramble to succeed him now moves from the theoretical to the very real. How to tell which of today's many tributes to the Virginia senator are from candidates who have been breathlessly awaiting this day and can barely contain their glee?

The wording of the tributes won't help; I have an email queue full of them and they're all identical: John Warner was "a good friend, a great Virginian, and a true statesman," (Gov. Tim Kaine), a man of principle who (Dems say) "often put principle before party - a quality sadly lacking in too many Virginia Republican leaders today" (state Democratic Party chairman Richard Cranwell). Republicans focus instead on Warner being "a great American and a great Patriot" (ex-Senator George Allen).

But there's something beyond the text of the various tributes that draws the line between candidates and bystanders: Down at the bottom of former Gov. Mark Warner's statement is this advisory from his staff--"Governor Warner will be available to make this statement (and only this statement) at 3:45 today outside his office.... He will not be discussing his own plans and will only make this statement."

And at the end of the release from Rep. Tom Davis, the Fairfax Republican who will run against former Gov. Ji Gilmore for the GOP nomination, we find this disclaimer from the staff: "This is the only public statement Davis will be making today." In addition, in Davis's words, we get this: "An announcement from me on my future plans can wait for another day."

There was, of course, no mystery about who would run for John Warner's seat, but it's nonetheless always fun to check out the code of winks and nods by which these guys operate.

And then there's the totally out there part of politics: Less than 20 minutes after Warner made his announcement, the first campaign blast from the Virginia Democrats landed, an attack on Tom Davis's voting record headlined "Tom Davis is No John Warner," which includes bits contrasting Davis's voting record in the House with Warner's in the Senate--Warner supported an increase in the minimum wage while Davis opposed such a move. The games have begun (well, begun again--no, the games continue--no, well, have a good, campaign-free holiday weekend.)

By Marc Fisher |  August 31, 2007; 3:00 PM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I miss Allen's cool-headed temperament and disposition...
Unfortunate circumstances have given him a raw deal

G-E-A-U-X, ALLEN. G-E-A-U-X -->
U.S. Senate '08!

Posted by: Austin | September 5, 2007 3:30 PM

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