Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mark Warner and the moderate challenge to HIllary

It's not at all clear that the primary system as a way to pick presidents works.

Case in point: last year Democrats, unified in their burning hatred for President Bush, were determined to pick the candidate most likely to give W his walking papers.

The solution was: John Kerry-???? As Kerry began sweeping through the early primaries, Democratic friends asked me what I thought about Kerry's electability. The idea was that JFK's war record would make it possible to sell him to the American people as a candidate who would be strong on terror.

My answer was: no way. Five minutes with JFK's senate record and it was clear that Kerry was close to being Karl Rove's dream opponent. Kerry was not going be credible on terror anymore than Max Cleland was going to be able to carrz Georgia, and for the same reasons: a good war record won't wipe out a bad senate record when the issues are put before the voters.

Which is exactly what happened. Kerry got pounded by his vote against funding the troops, and his cuts in intelligence (the "Wolves" television ad)--not to mention the Swift Boat Veterans. The end of it was that exit polls showed that only two states in the union--TWO!--thought that Kerry could be trusted to handle terrorism: Massachusetts and Maryland.

Kerry was a disastrous pick in the middle of the war on terror, and yet Democratic primary voters picked him in large part for his strength on that issue.

Now Democrats, worried that Hillary is not electable, are looking to Mark Warner of Virginia.

Quick advice: don't. Apart from the fact that as governor of Virginia his defense credentials appear to be zero, he's exactly the wrong kind of Southern moderate: he's a tax hike waiting to happen. One of the key reasons why Ohio went for Bush was that Bush pushed his tax cuts over against Kerry's tax hike record.

The idea of the Democrats nominating a Southern moderate makes sense--although a swing state candidate from the midwest deserves some serious consideration. But the key problem for the Democrats is to find a candidate whom the country trusts to defend freedom in time of war. Barring some sudden changes in the current state of the War on Terror, Mark Warner is just Southern-fried roadkill for McCain, Giuliani, Condi Rice or any other GOP candidate with serious national security credentials.

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