Mark Warner is an amiable fellow, an eager dispenser of back slaps, glad hands, and masculine bonhomie. What we didn’t realize — until recently — is that Virginia’s senior Democratic senator was such a comedian.
Debating GOP rival Ed Gillespie before the most staid and stolid assemblage imaginable — the Virginia Bar Association — at West Virginia’s Greenbrier resort, Mr. Warner, with a straight face Jack Benny would envy, said “the last thing Washington needs is another partisan warrior.”
This was not self-deprecating humor, even given Mr. Warner’s voting record — a solid 97 percent down the line with President Obama. Apparently, the senator believes rank partisanship rears its disreputable head only when the other guys and girls — i.e., Republicans, conservatives — vote in lockstep.
The old saw goes that “there are none so blind as those who will not see.” Mark Warner is not sightless, but he plays the blind man on TV. He calls himself a “radical centrist” and a “deficit hawk,” but legislates like a “partisan warrior” who’s never seen a spending initiative (or Obama appointee) he wouldn’t happily vote for. His has been as reliable a vote in the Senate for which Mr. Obama could ever wish.
Mr. Warner hopes this will propel him to victory in November. Polls show him holding a comfortable double-digit lead, though one recent survey — courtesy of CBS News — suggests the margin has shrunk to a mere 10 points, at 53-43. This should provide Mr. Gillespie, whose campaign seems stuck in neutral (or even “park”), some reason for optimism.
What continues to astound us, though, is that state voters seem to have long memories but short attention spans when it comes to Mr. Warner. The candidate they choose to see is the one who made his chops as an effective, efficient (albeit latently liberal) governor a decade ago, not the reflexive, garden-variety leftist actually before them on the stump.
All of which makes Mr. Gillespie’s verbal jab the one-liner of the campaign (thus far): “Gov. Warner wouldn’t recognize Sen. Warner today.”
Nor should Virginians.