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Virginia: Much at Stake for Warner?

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) won't be on the ballot in tomorrow's gubernatorial race, but he has a lot riding on the outcome nonetheless.

Warner, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, has gone all out on behalf of Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) -- traveling the state with him for much of the campaign's final months and appearing in television ads currently blanketing the airwaves.

"Because presidential politics are involved, way too much will inevitably be read into the result, good or bad," said Democratic consultant Jim Jordan, who is not currently affiliated with any of the 2008 candidates.

Kaine has turned the race against state Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) into a referendum on Warner's four years an office, a savvy move given that voters in Virginia (Democrats, Independents and even many Republicans) view Warner very favorably as he winds up his term.

In Kaine's latest ad he says: "Virginia has made great progress these last four years because Gov. Warner and I ignored party labels and did what's best for the Commonwealth."  Warner then appears in the ad, crediting Kaine with "helping to balance the budget and invest in education and transportation."

A Kaine victory tomorrow, which according to the latest polls is a real possibility, would provide a major boost for Warner's national ambitions among party insiders who crave a candidate with appeal in a so-called red state.

The impact of a Kaine loss on Warner is less clear. Some strategists suggest that it would be a blow to Warner due to the high-profile role he has chosen to play in the campaign. Others, however, suggest that if Kaine loses it will be largely seen as the result of the less-than-stellar campaign he ran as opposed to Warner's inability to transfer his popularity to another Democrat.

Regardless of the outcome, Warner's term in office has already delivered him a series of talking points on which to build a national campaign. Governing magazine named Virginia the best-managed state in the country under Warner, and large swaths of the southwestern portion of the state have undergone a employment resurgence in the last few years.

Warner is making moves to ensure he remains in the discussions as a possible 2008 candidate. His top political operative -- Monica Dixon -- spent the weekend in Iowa for the state party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 7, 2005; 10:55 AM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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