Who Is Mark Warner?

Hint: Not An ‘Independent Voice’

Posted: April 8, 2014

Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts.

Who, you ask, is Mark Warner? And does his record square with a perception that has been, if anything, meticulously sculpted? These are burning questions, or should be.

When running in 2008 for the seat he currently holds, the former governor portrayed himself as a thoroughgoing independent — in voice, thought, and action. In fact, the takeaway line from his entire campaign came in the Fairfax County debate that September when he famously proclaimed, “If you want somebody who is going to vote a rigid, ideological line on every issue, I’m not the guy.”

As late as the winter of 2010 — i.e., after votes in favor of the Obama “stimulus,” the first Obama budget, and the health-care overhaul, not to mention gushing support for the Senate’s version of cap-and-trade — Mr. Warner still described himself as a “radical centrist.”

Great pains have been taken to burnish that image. But does it withstand scrutiny, and the cold, harsh light of a voting record? You be the judge.

Ed Gillespie, Mr. Warner’s presumptive Republican opponent this fall, has repeatedly stated — in what currently passes for a campaign — that Virginia’s senior senator has voted with President Obama “97 percent of the time.” But this figure, we’ve learned, applies merely to votes taken in 2013. Our question: What has been Mr. Warner’s voting record over time, since 2009, when he entered the Senate?

If nothing else, that 2013 figure is instructive. Culling statistics compiled by Congressional Quarterly, we find that Mr. Warner has been, from Day One, an uber-reliable vote for Mr. Obama. In 2009, for example, he voted with the president 96 percent of the time. In 2010, that percentage was 97; in 2011, 99 percent; and in 2012, 96 percent. An “independent voice”? Hardly.

Even greater perspective is provided when you consider overall party unity in the Senate over that same five-year span. Senate Democrats, as a whole, supported Mr. Obama’s policies and initiatives to the respective tunes of 92 percent in 2009, 90 percent in 2010, 91 percent in 2011, 86 percent in 2012, and 92 percent last year. In that sense, Mr. Warner was far more predictable than many of his colleagues. He did, in fact and contrary to his pledge, “vote a rigid, ideological line.”

So who, or what, is Mark Warner? The polite description, to our way of thinking, is “dissembler.”