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Warner Becomes Face of National Democratic Party

Anita Kumar

U.S. Senate candidate Mark R. Warner's decision to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention later this month means Warner's own political future this year can now be linked to the national Democratic party.

Ever since he announced his Senate campaign late last year, Warner has sought to put some distance between himself and Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Warner appeared with Obama in June in Southwest Virginia, and has touted his candidacy in various interviews. But Warner has at times stressed he is running his own race as he tried to respond to efforts by his GOP opponent, former governor James S. Gilmore, to tie him to Obama and national Democrats.

At a debate with Gilmore last month, Warner mentioned Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, more than he mentioned Obama. Now, Gilmore will have images of Warner standing on stage in prime-time as the symbol of the national Democratic party.

If Obama's presidential campaign tanks in Virginia this fall - which is still possible given the conservative leanings of the state - Warner won't be able to distance himself from the national party.

Warner's high-profile role at the convention could also diminish his appeal among Republicans. In recent weeks, Warner has sought to rally some Republicans behind his candidacy. One Warner supporter has even printed up dozens of McCain-Warner signs.

Prime-time speaker slots at the convention have also traditionally been used as launching points for future presidential campaigns. In 1988, Bill Clinton gave the nominating address at the Democratic National Convention. Four years ago, Obama was the keynote speaker at the Democratic convention.

Look for Gilmore to now try to extract a pledge from Warner that he will serve out his full six year term as a senator, which would mean he could not run for president in 2012 should Obama lose the presidential race this fall.

By Anita Kumar  |  August 13, 2008; 10:21 AM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Election 2008/President , Election 2008/U.S. Senate , Mark Warner , Tim Craig  
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