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Virginia Senate: If John Warner Doesn't Run Again...

Lost amid the hubbub over the release of the Iraq Study Group report yesterday, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) told a group of reporters that he was "leaning in favor" of running for a sixth term in 2008.

Sen. John Warner
All eyes in Virginia are on Sen. John Warner. Will he run for reelection in 2008? (AP Photo/Meet the Press)

While Warner's comments may slow down the speculation about his political future, until he makes a formal declaration of his intentions the positioning by ambitious Virginia politicians hoping to succeed him will continue.

Should Warner bow out, Virginia would immediately leap to the top of the the national radar screen. Sen.-elect Jim Webb's (D) victory over Sen. George Allen (R) last month, coupled with Gov. Tim Kaine's (D) victory last year, revealed just how quickly the Commonwealth's political landscape is changing -- driven by Northern Virginia's rapid growth and the area's inclination to give more of its votes to Democrats with each passing election. Virginia is now a legitimate toss-up state -- especially in an open-seat scenario.

If Warner decides to retire, there are plenty of politicians of both political stripes who could jump into the race. Here's a look at what a Warner-less field might look like:


Mark Warner
Could another Warner replace the current one in the Senate in 2008? (Bloomberg News Photo)

* Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D): The dream candidate for Virginia Democrats, Warner would enter an open-seat race as the frontrunner no matter whom Republicans nominate. Remember that Warner, then a little-known businessman, ran for the Senate against John Warner in 1996 -- coming surprisingly close after spending more than $10 million of his own money. Warner clearly relished his job as governor (2001-2005) and joked often while campaigning for Kaine last year that he would have loved to served a second term. (Virginia limits its governors to a single four-year term.) Warner's surprising decision to declare he will not run for president next year is still echoing in the political world does not mean he is uninterested in seeking public office again. The governor's office seems his first love, but Warner might not be able to pass up an open Senate seat. "The Governor is keeping all options on the table but it is too early to consider what an happen in future political races, " said Lars Anderson, a spokesman for Warner's Forward Together PAC.

* Creigh Deeds: Deeds, a state senator, ran a surprisingly strong bid for state Attorney General in 2005 -- losing to Bob McDonnell (R) by 360 votes. Following that narrow defeat, Deeds immediately ascended to the top of the Democrats' list of 2009 gubernatorial candidates. His calculus is scrambled by Mark Warner, however. Shortly after the former governor dropped from the presidential race, Deeds told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Warner would be a "wonderful governor if he chose to do that again." If Warner gave the signal -- publicly or privately -- that he was planning another gubernatorial bid, it might be difficult for Deeds to pass up a chance to be the Democratic nominee for Senate.

* Leslie Byrne: After losing her bid for lieutenant governor in 2005, most Democrats assumed Byrne's political career was over. Not so fast. Byrne took a major gamble by supporting Webb early and often in the primary against Harris Miller. In doing so, she won herself some major political chits. If Rep. Tom Davis (R) decides to vacate his 11th District seat, Byrne would be in the mix as a replacement. She held the seat for a single term before losing to Davis in 1994. Byrne is likely too liberal to win statewide, but her name would be in the mix if Mark Warner took a pass on the Senate race.


* George Allen: Allen's shocking loss to Webb last month brought to a halt what was once a bright political career with solid White House ambitions. Allen must now rebuild from the ground up. He made clear in his concession speech that he was not done with politics, but he did not mention a specific race. Allen obviously enjoyed his stint as governor (1993 to 1997) more than his time in the Senate, so a run for the state's top office seems more likely. (And don't forget that the governor's mansion is traditionally a better launching pad than the Senate floor for a presidential race.)

* Bob McDonnell: When McDonnell beat Deeds for attorney general in 2005, he almost immediately began running for governor. The last two Republican nominees for governor -- Mark Earley and Jerry Kilgore -- held the same position McDonnell currently occupies. McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said that his boss "has an interest in moving up in politics, but think 2009 not 2008." McDonnell and Allen are political allies, and there is no chance McDonnell would challenge Allen in a gubernatorial primary. If Allen decides to run for governor in '09, McDonnell will come under serious pressure to consider the Senate race. Some GOP blogs in the state are already floating the idea.

* Tom Davis: If Warner retires, Davis is an absolute lock to run for the Senate. The growth in influence of Northern Virginia in statewide politics accrues to Davis's benefit, as he has built his political base there. But he will be hard-pressed to keep a more conservative candidate from outside of NoVa from challenging him in the primary. Davis has been moving around the state for several years (witness his appearance at this year's Shad Planking) and has been raising scads of money to prepare for the race. He brought in $2.5 million since Jan. 1, 2005, and spent $2.6 million in the just-concluded cycle.

* Jim Gilmore: He's back! Gilmore, the former governor of the Commonwealth and past chairman of the Republican National Committee, is considering runs for president, Senate and governor. Gilmore opened a state-based political action committee in the summer, a seeming indication that he is more interested in the governorship than a Senate seat.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 7, 2006; 4:22 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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You say "Allen, Gilmore, and Davis would all be pretty much even, and it would be anyone's guess as to who would win out among those three. The two losers might try their hand for governor the following year, along with McDonnell."

I think you meant to say "The two losers in the Republican primary will join with McDonnell and the winner in the Republican primary to try for the governor the following year."

Posted by: Chris | December 20, 2006 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Mark Warner wants to run for Governor again, I doubt he will go for the Senate seat. The same is true with Allen. However, Allen must realize that if Warner runs for Governor in 2009, he has not chance of winning so he might make another run for Senate. I predict it will be him against Davis in the primary with the Right wing Virginia GOP shooting itself in the foot again and nominating Allen who will go down to defeat in November 2008.

However, I agree there is a very good chance that John Warner will run again - since he no longer has to do the work of two Senators.

Posted by: Chris | December 20, 2006 9:07 PM | Report abuse

gilmore spent the last few days of the 2006 elections campainging in SOUTH CAROLINA, not his home state. instead of going home to help save allen from himself, he put his own political ambitions first.

that should say plenty about the guy.

Posted by: earl | December 12, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse

"It has been remarkable to watch how fast Bob McDonnell has risen in Virginia politics"

He's the most prominent statewide elected GOP official, aside from Warner.

He barely won in 2005, in spite of endless hype and a money advantage. Not that great.

He's just another extremist if you ask me.

Posted by: Jon | December 11, 2006 11:39 PM | Report abuse

How about Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House? He is a Party Whip and is a bright, young conservative. If John Warner retires, he could give Mark Warner a good fight.

Posted by: Rolandtz | December 11, 2006 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Chuck Schumer should get Mark Warner to run for the seat, regardless of if John Warner retires or not. The seat will have to be won no matter who the republican is, and Mark Warner would have a better chance than anyone to beat John Warner.

Posted by: Adam | December 10, 2006 7:58 PM | Report abuse

David - But the innuendo is so much more fun for some people.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | December 8, 2006 7:14 PM | Report abuse

i do have the inside scoop on warner, and believe me the man truly did want to spend more time with his family.

Posted by: david | December 8, 2006 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Allen, a Titan? A political novice beat him.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Mark Warner vs. George Allen for Governor in 09 would truly be a clash of the titans.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 8, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Mark Warner dropped out of the Presidential race for more reasons than he is letting on. The truth is waiting to drop publicly if he ever runs for anything again. All of you with inside access to the Dems in VA can easily find out the details, and I'm sure you will keep them to yourselves as well. Brian Moran has all but announced his race for Governor in 2009, and my bet is he will face off against Bob McDonnell, and lose. What about brother Jim? He's only safe in his gerrymandered cocoon of the VA 8th.

Posted by: William | December 8, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

From yesterday's Post at:

Wining and Dining Their Way to the Top
By Michael D. Shear
December 7, 2006; VA04

HOT SPRINGS, Va. There's a lot about politics that happens behind closed doors. The wheeling. The dealing. The backrooms...Every year, out of the public eye, Virginia's Republicans gather at the Homestead, one of the nation's most glamorous resorts, for their annual meeting. They call it the "Advance," because someone once said that calling it a retreat would give people the wrong idea about their hopes for the future.

Sounds like "Advance" is being Politically Correct on the Republican side.

This brainstorm was from one of those people wearing a beanie with a propeller on the top?

Posted by: Nor'Easter | December 8, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

First of all, I'd be glad to see Warner retire, but I don't think it's going to happen in 2008.

For more on Warner, see my essay entitled, "John Warner: The Accidental Senator" at the following URL:

Now, regarding what might happen if he does retire:

I believe Mark Warner will be the hands-down winner on the Democratic side, if he decides to run (and I believe he will, since he decided not to enter the 2008 presidential sweepstakes). Deeds and Byrne certainly could not match his stature.

On the GOP side, it would it be a little more complicated. Allen, Gilmore, and Davis would all be pretty much even, and it would be anyone's guess as to who would win out among those three. The two losers might try their hand for governor the following year, along with McDonnell.

Someone mentioned Randy Forbes, the gentleman who represents my district in Congress. I don't believe he will run, considering all the competition he would have for the nomination. I think he would rather wait and run for either governor or the Senate at some time when the GOP field wouldn't be quite as crowded. His congressional district is pretty safe, as his only opponent in November was from the Green Party.

Posted by: Terry Mitchell | December 8, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Tom Davis is going to be named in the Abramoff list of crooks. He took money from Jack AND Pam Abramoff, his tribal clients, Abramoff cronies, and from Tom Delay. The conservative libertarians did not like his signing the Schiavo petition and the liberals don't like his pay-to-play politics and PAC money. tomdavistruthDOTcom

Posted by: Mookie | December 8, 2006 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Gilmore "cut" spending? If that's true, then who are the guilty parties who increased it? His Conservative Republican Legislature.

Truth - Tell the whole Truth.

The financial crisis occurred because Gilmore made a throwaway line about the "Car Tax" from his stump speech the central point of his campaign. His handlers noticed that people reacted strongly to the line, so they made it the campaign centerpiece.

Gilmore never developed a plan on how to handle the consequences which eliminating the car tax would create. His solution for the money lost with the tax cut was, increased revenue from an expanding economy. There was no plan other than that. Too bad the economy didn't cooperate- they tend to act on their own. Downturns happen. Didn't bother Gilmore, he reacted as if it wasn't happening and ignored it.

Warner was not able to do anything about taxes without the cooperation of that Conservative Legislature. The adults in that Legislature (they're the ones not wearing beanies with propellers on the top) are the ones who realized that they had to do something to fix the mess Gilmore had left behind. The tax increases were the result of honest hard work on the part of Warner and the legislature. It was a partnership.

Gilmore's a loser. That he had to be fired as head of the RNC should tell you everything you need to know about him. There are plenty of other qualified Republicans in Virginia, find one of them to promote.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | December 8, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Tom Davis is so strong that his opponent, who spent $300,000 and had little name recognition, got 44% of the vote, while Davis spent more than $3 million.

Posted by: NoVA | December 8, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Mark Warner is strong candidate, no doubt, in a now purple state. But he is untested in a tough race and now has a tax-raising record to defend, as well as his credibility. At least he starts with lots of positives and no opposition in the Dem party. The GOPers have a really strong bench -- Allen, Gilmore, McDonnell, Bolling, Davis. GOPers big risk is a 1989-like fight-to-the-death primary among lots of power players. McDonnell definitely emerging as a real contender. Allen damaged but still has well of support among the party faithful. Gilmore can never be ruled out, and contrary to Colin's comments above, he actually cut taxes AND spending, and left nearly $1 billion in a rainy day fund for Gov. Warner (who raised taxes nonetheless). So Virginia politics will be interesting to say the least.

Posted by: Truth Teller | December 8, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Nope, Allen and Mark Warner will duke it for the governor's race, with Allen losing in shame, as he should.

Whether John Warner runs in '08 makes little difference in the calculation of both of these men who eventually want to be president.

Posted by: Mimi Schaeffer | December 8, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Central VA GOP'er - The only Republican I've ever seen Larry Sabato not say nice things about is George Allen; who must have ticked him off somehow when they were at UVA together.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | December 8, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Drop all the speculation. Senator Warner is going to run for re-election.

Posted by: Political Junkie | December 8, 2006 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Brian Moran is running for governor but probably could switch to the Senate given an opening.

And your love affair with George Allen continues. Remember: the Macaca tape is not going to disappear and there's more where that came from.

Posted by: Arlington guy | December 8, 2006 9:14 AM | Report abuse

If Allen could run a virtual campaign, he'd have a chance. I mean move to an Undisclosed location, don't say a word and speak only through megapoints of TV advertising. No racial slurs, no brawls at events, no botched answers about his heritage...

Warner runs, hmmmm, could that actually put Virginia in play for the Dems on the presidential ticket? Not if Hillary's on it...I'm just saying.

Finally, a very strange tale regarding Britney's, er, tail. It may be a little blasphemous, but it has the advantage of being true: "Onward Christian Voyeurs"

Posted by: The Eyewitness Muse | December 8, 2006 7:29 AM | Report abuse

What ever happened to Mary Sue Terry, the former AG in Virginia?

Posted by: Conan The Librarian | December 8, 2006 1:00 AM | Report abuse

Surely Mark Warner will run for the Governors mansion again?

He'd be almost certain to win (would the Repub's even bother to field a candidate?) and he could then position himself to win the Presidency in 2012 if the next Dem candidate gets swiftboated, or in 2016 after winning Va's Senate seat in 2014 (when J Warner will almost certainly retire).

He's a great politician, puts his family first, a state CEO who did Virginia proud. He'd be wasted in the Senate.

Posted by: JayPe | December 8, 2006 12:42 AM | Report abuse

Mark Warner all the way!

Posted by: Porter McNeil | December 8, 2006 12:30 AM | Report abuse

As a Democrat, I'm enthusiastic about Virginia too. That being said, NO ONE is going to beat John Warner if he r uns again. The man is an institution and -- despite the fact that he's wrong on a lot of issues -- is a good Senator for Va. and as decent as any other national Republican I can think of. Agreed, however, that it may be time for him to move on. And if he does, I'd say Dems have an even money chance to pick up the seat.

Also, Creigh Deeds would make a very interesting Senate candidate. He is from Southern Virginia, rather than the more traditional Dem stronghold of NoVa, and is also sufficiently pro-gun rights that he will always be competitive to get the NRA endorsement. Not bad credentials for a Democrat in Va.

Posted by: Colin | December 7, 2006 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Senator Warner's time has come and passed. It will be time for him to step aside to let the next generation of Virginia politician take over in 2008.
In an open election for the presidency, as will be the case in 2008, people will "come out of the woodwork" to vote. Virginia, like most states may see a 30% increase in turnout in 2008.
This does not bode well for Senator Warner, or any imcumbant Republican senator, because the additional voters will be about 65% Democrat and will vote along party lines.
Mr. Warner would be smart to bow out gracefully and lay claim to his emeritus status as Virginia's only retired US Senator.
It is not unrealistic to expect the Democrats to pick up 4-5 additional Senate seats in 2008. Its a good bet that Virginia will be among that group, regardless of who the candidates are on the ballot.

Posted by: hawkny | December 7, 2006 8:14 PM | Report abuse

It has been remarkable to watch how fast Bob McDonnell has risen in Virginia politics. He had a heck of a great year as AG, and when the GOP needed a Republican to go on national TV to debate Governor Kaine right before Election Day 2006 who'd they pick, Bob McDonnell. Larry Sabato had some great things to say about him recently that I saw on a Virginia blog, looks like he's going places.

Posted by: Central Va GOP'er | December 7, 2006 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Bob McDonnell's the man! I hope he runs for something big down the road. And I think he could take on whoever the Democrats put up.

Posted by: VA Peninsula | December 7, 2006 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Conservative TX Dem - You need to read about Gilmore's term as Governor. A disaster.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | December 7, 2006 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Jim Gilmore is the Va. version of George W. Bush. He pretends to be fiscally conservative, but then completely drained the Va. rainy day fund and created the huge fiscal mess that Warner had to clean up through his irresponsible tax cuts.

In my mind, "conservative" means cutting taxes AND spending. Gilmore -- like the national GOP -- only believes in the first part of that equation. I would warn anyone against supporting that guy for ANY office.

Posted by: Colin | December 7, 2006 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Sen. Jeanne Marie Devolites. When husband Tom Davis runs for the Senate, she runs for his House seat.

And, Fairfax County Chairman Gerry Connolly has a better base for running for Davis' VA-11 seat than Leslie Byrne does.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | December 7, 2006 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Let me, first, start by saying that I think Virginia need to change that law about their governors. I find it utterly ridiculous that good and able people--if they so choose--are not allowed to run for re-election, consecutively. I understand the reasons for it and they all have merit, as this is a trend in many southern states. But, it's time to change this.

My state, of Texas, had a similar situation mind you, but we wised up and changed. Virginia,in my view, should too.

Anyway, I like Mark Warner, and was disappointed that he decided not to run for president. He's, definitely, a guy to look out for and I think if he were to run again in Virginia, it seems, he would win.

Forget about George Allen. He's done. Finished. I personally, after reading some, like Jim Gilmore. As a conservative Democrat, I could vote for him. He seems credible.

Posted by: Conservative, Texan Dem | December 7, 2006 5:50 PM | Report abuse

At least you put Gilmore at the bottom of the list.

The guy left the Virginia legislature in a turmoil with major budget problems (essentially lack of a budget) and had to be fired as head of the Republican National Committee.

Paraphrasing a 1992 RNCl campaign line: He's the failed Governor of a medium-sized state!

Essentially the Leslie Byrne on the Republican side in Virginia. What does it take to get rid of such a loser?

Posted by: Nor'Easter | December 7, 2006 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Chris, no link for Macacawitz? Not even to his USSenate site? That's cold.

Posted by: TeddySanFran | December 7, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

(Virginia limits its governors to a single four-year term.)

Sorry, Chris, Virgiinia limits its governors from succeding themselves in office. Mills Godwin being the most recent example, although changing parties (as Mills did) isn't a requirement.

Mark Warner's still a contender to succeed Tim Kaine in Richmond.

More from wiki:
Also, Virginia does not allow governors to hold the office for consecutive terms, so the incumbent Governor is barred from running in the election (although a former governor may run again in subsequent gubernatorial elections). Virginia is the only state in the U.S. in which governors cannot serve consecutive terms.

Posted by: TeddySanFran | December 7, 2006 5:34 PM | Report abuse

The most interesting part of this post is the discussion of Bob McDonnell. He must be doing a lot right to be mentioned as a frontrunner for both Senate and Governor after less than a year as Attorney General. With his military credentials, he clearly would be a good choice for Senate in a state with a strong military presence. And I think he grew up in Fairfax, so he understands Northern Virginia. He may be exactly the right guy to win that Senate seat -- but my money is still on McDonnell for Governor.

Posted by: NoVa Republican | December 7, 2006 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Rep. Randy Forbes might also be interested and I know he has been praised by John Warner as a possible successor; I don't know whether he would defer to Tom Davis.

Another interesting question is if Allen would clear the GOP fiedl--still, even if Warner retires, a gubernatorial bid in 1009 seems more likely than a 2008 Senate bid.

Posted by: Alex | December 7, 2006 5:25 PM | Report abuse

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