Mark Warner Prepares for DNC Spotlight

August 26, 2008

(AP) - Former Gov. Mark Warner plans to offer a lesson in Virginia-style bipartisanship to thousands of hardcore Democrats in his convention keynote speech Tuesday night.

"There may be parts of the speech that aren't going to get a lot of applause," Warner said Monday, "but I've got to say what I believe will get our country back on the right path."

Some Democrats were already complaining, saying that Warner's job is to put a dent in Republican John McCain's image.

"This isn't the Richmond Chamber of Commerce," said Democratic consultant Paul Begala.

For Mark Warner, who is seeking the Senate seat of retiring Republican John Warner, a red-meat speech that would bring the party's most passionate warriors to their feet in Denver would undermine a carefully cultivated image at home that has given him a strong lead in statewide polls and a lopsided fundraising advantage.

Nothing about the presidential campaign indicates that either side is willing to speak kindly of the other or its nominee.

Rhetoric and advertising from both Democrat Barack Obama and McCain
turned caustic early.

Warner's election as governor in 2001 revived a moribund Democratic Party in a state where Republicans controlled every statewide office or elected institution of government. For Warner to work with a General Assembly that was overwhelmingly Republican when he took office, bipartisanship was not optional.

Now, in the race to replace a moderate senator, Warner is appealing to independent and even Republican voters by billing himself as a "radical centrist" in his campaign against rigidly conservative former Gov. Jim Gilmore.

"I'm not going to say one thing in Richmond or in Danville and another thing at the Democratic Convention in Denver. I understand some folks may not like that, but ... you know, I'm a job applicant," Warner said.

Warner, who is at the forefront of Democratic candidates who appear likely to expand the party's one-seat majority in the Senate this fall, is also part of a Democratic strategy to pry Virginia and its 13 electoral votes from the solidly Republican South.

Obama's campaign, hoping to win Virginia for a Democrat for the first time since 1964, selected Warner to deliver the 15-minute keynote address. Four years ago, Obama - then a Senate candidate from Illinois - delivered the keynote.

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