Warner as Presidential Contender

Gov. Mark R. Warner’s credibility as a potential presidential candidate got a big boost today in the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. Stephen Moore, founder of the Club for Growth, quoted national Democratic Party insiders as describing Warner as “the primary alternative to Hillary Clinton” in seeking the 2008 Demo nomination and that “he would be the party’s strongest conceivable general election candidate.”

Moore cites Warner’s track record as a successful entrepreneur, as a moderate in the Bill Clinton mold, and his skepticism of Democratic Party pieties, quoting him as attacking Washington Democrats for “defending the same government programs, thinking they are going to get us new results.”

Of course, Moore is no friend of Mark Warner. He attacks the Governor’s claim to be a fiscal conservative, and in particular his campaign promise not to raise taxes — followed by his support for the regional sales tax initiatives and then the successful $1.4 billion-a-biennum tax increase of 2004. Says Moore:

Gov. Warner alleges that the tax hike was necessary to balance the budget and preserve the state’s triple-A bond rating. That was mostly a canard. Months before the tax hike was enacted, the state’s revenue office reported a massive 7.5% surge in tax receipts from the previous year due to the national economic recovery. This year, with the higher tax rate, tax receipts have exploded by 12 % [Actually, closer to 15 percent-Editor] and the state legislature is swimming in a green river.

Also, asserted Moore, “The Virginia state budget has expanded by 26% over Gov. Warner’s tenure, about twice the national average for the states.” Still, none of those inconvenient facts have stopped Demo party pros from trumpeting “Clinton-Warner” as the dream ticket in 2008.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Moore has it right. Warner may talk a good moderate game, but unfortunately you can’t trust a word out of his mouth. Of course if the Dems choose him as their candidate it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of the public with a candidate who couldn’t be bothered with speaking the truth.

    “The Virginia state budget has expanded by 26% over Gov. Warner’s tenure, about twice the national average for the states.”

    The above statement just goes to show you what you get with an unholy alliance between liberal Republicans and Democrats in the GA and a Governor who wants to spend tax money. All this growth in the government budget and yet nothing of significance for transportation spending!

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    The budget expanded to pay for:

    1) George Allen’s program to keep criminals in jail (no parol), and implement the SOL’s.

    2) Jim Gilmore’s car tax fiasco.

    …among other things.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    When push comes to shove, and Warner is up against some Democrat (or Republican) with a history of service in Congress, that tax increse is no longer a problem — it’s an asset. He balanced a budget, made hard choices and proposed a tax increase. He’ll happily compare that to someone who has voted to fritter away a balanced federal budget and add trillions to the national debt. And the message will appeal to many traditional Republican votes. Hilary will crush him of course, but the tax increase won’t be the reason.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Anon 10:11:

    Note, the 26% increase came under Warner’s watch. The car tax “fiasco” as you call it was held level before Warner took office. I highly doubt that the “three strikes and your out” law and SOL’s account for a 26% growth in the budget.

    Anon 10:33

    As for the state tax increase being not important at the national level, I can possibly agree. My point however is not so much that he increased taxes, but that he vociferously promised not to do so in his campaign and in fact called his opponent a liar for saying he would. If Warner had campaigned on the truth he could stand tall now, of course he lied in order to get elected. The point is, what else will he lie about to get nominated and elected? Whether he runs for President or Senate his integrity and trustworthiness will be a valid issue.

    BTW there never was a deficit at the state level so Warner never “balanced” anything more than any previous Governor has.

    As for the “frittering away” of the balanced budget at the national level, I have to say here again you are wrong. The budget never was balanced because congress continues to borrow money from Social Security to float the numbers. Of course this was initiated by Democrats and continues today under Republicans. The war on terror has caused a period where the feds are spending more than taking in at the moment, but Warner will not based on his record be able to make any kind of argument that he will reduce spending.

    Also, the trend currently is reduced deficits due to the recent federal tax reductions that have brought back a period of growth. The Republicans may be rightfully accused of spending too much at the moment, but Warner cannot make a good case that he wouldn’t do the same. On the other hand his history of raising taxes could be used against him by the time the election roles around and when the Republicans will be able to make hay with the fact that the federal tax reductions have led to reduced deficits.

  5. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Love him, hate him, or merely be frustrated by him, one has to marvel at how Warner and his team have parlayed a relatively thin record of accomplishment into serious national prominence.

    Gov. Warner has displayed a genius for staying above the fray and avoiding controversy. His “fiscal responsibility” persona has played well–his repetitive message has been successful in keeping anyone from challenging any of the details.

    Gov. Warner has also benefited from Democratic cooperation. Democrats, thrilled to have their guy in the mansion, don’t demand that he cater to the more liberal wing of the party, the way Republicans would demand that their guy sign anti-tax pledges or the like, then trash him if he didn’t.

  6. Virginia Centrist Avatar
    Virginia Centrist

    I believe the state’s medical budget went up something like 76% over the past 4 years. Much of that was uncontrollable entitlement programs that always experience a surge in use during recessions.

  7. Virginia Centrist Avatar
    Virginia Centrist

    Will: Imagine if the national Democratic Party were allowed to do the same thing by the base and nominate a moderate/non-ideologue candidate.

    Bush barely beat oafish John Kerry. He’d be sitting in Crawford right now if the Democrats nominated a reasonably moderate candidate.

  8. GOPHokie Avatar

    Centrist, I doubt it. All the pundits all say how the Dems ran such a weak candidate but they do not have an answer to who the dems should have run. Election 2004 was all about George W. Bush. 51% of the people thought he did at least a good enough job to warrant another term. I doubt anyone you guys would have run would have done much better. Kerry didn’t make that many mistakes, so he did the best he could. Why do you think Hilary didn’t run?

  9. victoria Avatar

    Liberals, who I think control the DNC(always an abortion irony, can’t stand his social issues record – HB751, abortion bills etc…once this is brought up in the campaign of 08, the star will fade as liberals do not vote for moderates and neither do conservatives….that’ll change in about 20 years when boomers start dying off…

  10. JamesRiverGOP Avatar

    Those who constantly throw up that bit about the state budget expanding 26% really do demonstrate thier ignorance.

    So much of the budget growth is federal dollars that “flow through” the state’s ledger, especially Medicaid. Such federal funds swell the state’s coffers–but that doesn’t equate to more money coming out of Virginians’ pockets or new programs being created.

    Where one should be monitoring state budget expansion is in terms of the General Fund. For the first couple of years of the Warner Administration, the GF was basically flat. It wasn’t unusual, sometimes for several months running, to see one-half of one percent GF growth.

    Citing big growth in the budget is a bogus generalization. But, hey, it’s a great “political” charge to make, which, of course, is the aim.

  11. Ben Kyber Avatar
    Ben Kyber

    51% of people THOUGHT Bush was doing a good enough job.

    Key word there is THOUGHT. Considering, from the latest poll numbers, it looks like 8% of those people realize they made a horrible mistake.

    We’re in bad shape.

  12. Virginia Centrist Avatar
    Virginia Centrist


    I strongly disagree…I guess I can’t prove it to you, but there were plenty of Republicans looking for anyone other than Bush to vote for. John Kerry was a worse candidate than Al Gore. And Bush squeaked by. Don’t you think that if the Democrats actually:

    1. Presented a vision for the future
    2. Nominated a culturally conservative candidate

    they would have won? It’s all academic at this point – and you’re right, who would they have nominated? Don’t you think Lieberman could have destroyed Bush?

  13. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    JamesRiverGOP, You make a valuable point. It’s very easy to mis-use budget figures. (As Mark Twain said, there are “lies, damn lies and statistics.”) The non-general fund is a huge grab bag of federal funds, transportation funds, college tuition revenues for public state universities, and the like. The Governor and legislature exercise much less control of this budget than they do of the General Fund. Thus, I agree with you, it it would be misleading to state that state government spending increased 26 percent under Warner’s watch.

    Likewise, there is widespread misuse of numbers on the other side. I recently read an op-ed in support of higher taxes reminding readers that Gov. Warner “cut $6 billion in state spending.” No, Gov. Warner never cut $6 billion in state spending. He, along with his legislative allies, asserted that they “closed a $6 billion budget shortfall.” What’s a budget shortfall? It’s mainly the difference between the money that was budgeted to come in (during the boom years of the Gilmore administration) and the money that actually did come in, with some unexpected spending mandates thrown in. Bottom line, although Warner did cut the state’s administrative overhead significantly, General Fund spending remained level on his watch.

    I would add one more point: Although you have to be careful about how you talk about the Non-General Fund, you can’t ignore it either. For example, the state cut support for higher education during the recent budget crisis. But it allowed universities to jack up tuitions. Those revenues showed up in the non-General Fund budget. As someone who has two kids in college, it’s hard for me to praise Warner and his General Assembly allies for their cost-cutting acumen when a big chunk of those “cuts” amounted to nothing more than cost transfers. I save $50 a year under Warner’s tax reform, but I pay $1,500 a year more in higher tuitions. Thanks, buddy. Next time, don’t do me any favors.

  14. James Young Avatar
    James Young

    Jim: Actually, I think the “lies” quotation is Disraeli.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Warner is a legit VP choice, and will help in the South. VA could be in play, the man has almost a 70% approval rating.

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Warner will help no more in the south than Edwards did. He didn’t even make a dent in his home state.

    I really have to question this 70% approval rating. After all, Warner has been lucky. His tax increase was timed synchronous with the federal tax reduction that created an environment for strong growth. Being Governor during a time of relative national economic growth combined with the fact that Warner has done nothing else as Governor can explain alot of why he has a good approval rating. Doing nothing means there’s nothing to point to as a negative, and the economic upturn has made most people not focus on the tax increase. I’m also not certain that there’s still not some confusion between him and John Warner in the polling. After all, and despite the fact that I don’t like to hear it, John Warner is a very popular statewide office holder.

  17. GOPHokie Avatar

    I believe Warner is well liked (both of them), but I don’t think Mark Warner would help the dems in the south, not even VA. Edwards proved he wouldnt help the region. Va won’t go Dem for a long time b/c there are so many knee-jerk Republicans in Chesterfield, Henrico and Virginia Beach that always vote in presidential elections, but never show up any other time. Its pretty hard to overcome the 70k vote margin in Chesterfield and VA Beach; and thats before the Shen Valley adds their 90k vote gain. Va is pretty much impossible for a dem to win in a presidential race.

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    For all of you Warner bashers I think you missed some very important facts about Warner’s time a governor. We came around following the Gilmore “no tax” proposal but still you deny Warner his due credit for gathering strength in both parties to bring in two balanced budgets while maintaining our financial security and integrity. Love him or hate him at least Warner accomplished most of his promises and all politicians vote to raise taxes out of necessity when needed. I would like to see Warner in the White House as he is a better alternative to anyone else I’ve heard comment about. At least with Warner you would get a “real” change for the “positive” and not more illegal wars or idle chit chat or lies covered over.

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