Warner campaign kickoff tour hits downtown

With so much attention paid to the race for the White House, former governor Mark Warner (D) came to Charlottesville today to remind voters that there is another office on the ballot in November, and that he's running for it. With Sen. John Warner (R, no relation) opting for retirement instead of a re-election campaign, Mark Warner laid out the reasons why he should fill the vacancy– namely that he seeks to end the partisan tone in Washington. "You've got to recognize that good ideas don't come with a 'D' or an 'R' attached to them," he told the crowd of about 300 people. "I'll work with anyone to make sure all Virginians get the same shot that I got."

Warner summarized his platform on the range of issues facing the next Congress, including his formula for stimulating the struggling national economy. "India and China are not playing for second place in the 21st century," he said. "We need a national competitiveness plan in this country," which Warner said should include having "the most educated innovative workforce in the world," "grappl[ing] with health care," and "re-invest[ing] our crumbling national infrastructure."

Warner also devoted some of his stump speech to the war in Iraq. "The Iraqi government is sitting on $70 billion in oil revenues right now," he said. "The only way we ratchet up the pressure on them is to begin to bring our troops home."

Asked after the speech if that means tying war funding to a timetable for withdrawal, Warner said, "I don't believe you can set a date," he said, "but I do think we have to make sure it's not an open-ended, 100-year engagement."

In a possible preview of things to come, former Gov. Warner aligned himself as the natural successor to the ever-popular Sen. Warner (65 percent approval rating as of six months ago). The former governor hinted that despite the fact that he was Sen. Warner's political rival when the young cell phone magnate ran for Senate for the first time in 1996, that he is closer to the popular outgoing senator's politics than former governor Jim Gilmore, the presumptive Republican nominee.

"When I was governor, on every issue, Sen. Warner was right there with me on the tough ones," said Warner. When reporters asked him to elaborate, he said, "I have a bipartisan focus on results, the same way he's led the United States Senate. The last thing we need is another partisan extremist."

With Warner leading Gilmore in the latest poll by a whopping 16 points, some have said a Warner win in November is a foregone conclusion. To that Warner said, "Let me assure you, I am absolutely committed to making my case all over the Commonwealth. I'm sure this will be a close race before this is all over."