Here come the Virginians

| Sunday, May 14, 2006

Will the commonwealth of Virginia take center stage in 2008?

It is not impossible that Virginia's Republican U.S. senator, George Allen, could square off against its former Democrat governor, Mark Warner, in the 2008 presidential election.

Not since 1944, when Republican Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York ran against that state's former Democrat governor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, have two men from the same state opposed each other for president.

What would a modern, information-at-the-speed-of-light presidential campaign look like, matching up two candidates of the same state• A provocative thought, but how likely is it?

"Well, I think it is a real long shot but a very interesting scenario," said Mark Rozell, a George Mason University public policy professor.

Well, class, this is politics, and on any given Tuesday, anything can happen.

Warner's and Allen's similarities are few. Both were popular governors and both were titular heads of their parties. Throw in the fact that they are of the same generation and that puts the caboose on that train of thought.

If you look at recent polling, each man is what his respective party is searching for.

Allen is conservative, confident and considered by some the second coming of Reagan.

Warner undoubtedly is what is missing most in a Democrat candidate -- a non-shrill moderate. He appeals to the party's largely ignored yet large moderate base.

Democrat strategist Steve McMahon finds the potential match-up compelling for Democrats. "Warner would win because America has a GOP hangover. ... An outsider is more appealing."

And history shows a governor is more attractive than a senator when running for president.

McMahon notes the senator's Bush quagmire. "Allen has this problem: He has a voting record with the president of over 90 percent. ... That is with a president with a 31 percent approval rating. ... Not very compelling numbers."

But don't underestimate Allen. "He is quite appealing, very charismatic, and he really does have that Reagan 'aw shucks' appeal," McMahon says.

Should each become his party's nominee, the plot thickens regarding their prospective vice-presidential choices. Two words describe that choice: regional balance. Each party would scramble to pick a non-southern, non-mid-Atlantic candidate with broad appeal within the party.

Two western border-state governors instantly would rise to the top -- New Mexico Democrat Bill Richardson and Texas Republican Rick Perry. How each has handled his state's border with Mexico makes him a persuasive candidate in this era of border security.

GOP strategist Kent Gates sees it this way: "With no clear front-runner for 2008, Sen. Allen has the resume, charisma and connections to win the nomination."

While Gates agreed with McMahon about the difficulty of making the leap from senator to presidential nominee, he added that Allen "has the background and experience as a successful governor of a state that he helped turn from blue to red."

On the other hand, Gates said, "Warner is the ultimate centrist in a party that more than leans left. He will appeal to the Reagan Democrats in states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania."

Not since the founding days of our country, with Washington and Jefferson, have we had two prime-time candidates from Virginia.

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