Free-For-All 2008: A Tale of Two Virginians

Among the candidates who could be described as "middle-of-the-party" and "electable", two Virginians have stood out to pundits. Governor Mark Warner is the Democrat, and he has announced plans to form an exploratory PAC to raise money toward a possible presidential run in 2008. His single allowed term as governor expires at the end of this year, so I have my doubts as to whether he can keep himself on the radar screen during 2006 and early '07. Also, a Republican win in this year's gubernatorial would seriously undermine his credentials as a winner, says the Richmond Times-Dispatch, even though it's his number two, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Kaine, who is actually running for the top spot.

Warner could and might challenge the other Virginian, Republican George Allen, for the latter's senate seat in 2006. A Warner win would essentially take both out of contention for '08; Allen would be a loser, and Warner would be too new to the Senate to justify spending his first two years there making a serious run at the presidency. However, Warner is unlikely to succeed against Allen, say both the Roanoke Times and Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), and the long odds will probably scare away Warner, as a loss would effectively kill his presidential plans.

More on Allen, who was a Virginia governor in the 1990's: He made his big splash in the pre-race by winning a National Journal straw poll of pundits in April. Allen has down-home style and a penchant for football analogies (his dad coached the 'Skins; the Roanoke Times article includes one such gridiron reference), and maintains his street cred with the GOP's conservative base. Allen picked up John Thune's political advisor last January, a hard-hitting operative whom Slate compares to Karl Rove. Newsweek, meanwhile, compares Allen to Reagan. Allen's On The Issues bullet points are unsurprising; he's basically a Reagan/GWBush Republican: pro-business, anti-regulation, anti-abortion, and weak on the budget. His strong suit is executive experience, and he's credited with founding Virginia's effective student testing as governor.

Here's how the Virginians stack up against the rest of the field in this month's Chatter Rankings:

Rank Candidate ChatterRank
R.1 Sen. Bill Frist 1,7400
R.2 Sen. John McCain 1,540+3
R.3 Sen. George Allen 696+6
R.4 Newt Gingrich 445+2
R.5 Gov. Jeb Bush 390+3*
R.6 Gov. Mitt Romney 380+4
R.7 V.P. Dick Cheney 371+1
R.8 Rudy Giuliani 285-6
R.9 Gov. George Pataki 202-6
R.10 Secy. Condoleezza Rice 160-6
R.11 Sen. Chuck Hagel 82-4
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 1,5800
D.2 Howard Dean 785+2
D.3 Sen. John Kerry 726-1
D.4 Sen. John Edwards 490+1
D.5 Gov. Mark Warner 370NEW**
D.6 Gov. Bill Richardson 2700
D.7 Sen. Evan Bayh 177N.R.***
D.8 Sen. Joseph Biden 165-5

Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name plus "2008" in the Google News database.
* Jeb Bush was not ranked last month, but would have placed 8th; his change is calculated from that point.
** Mark Warner was not tested last month.
*** Evan Bayh was tested but did not qualify last month.
This month's tested-but-not-qualifying list includes Russell Feingold, Colin Powell, Judd Gregg, Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, and John Ashcroft.
Chuck Hagel has fallen to probationary status: another month or two in the hole and he's out.

Among the obvious changes on this month's chart are the fall of the New York Republicans and of the foreign policy experts, Biden and Hagel. Governors are up in general, but so are the two Republican Senators who are emerging as frontrunners, Allen and McCain. Everything I've read indicates that Hillary has a virtual lock on the Democratic nomination, but a lot can change in three years, and that's why we won't stop looking to see who's poised to fill the void if she steps out of the race for some reason.

Howard Dean is wildly over-ranked this month; most of his press is negative and pertains to his too-high-profile position as Chief Democrat. Likewise Bill Frist, who emerged from the filibuster fight looking both petulent and ineffective. However, neither can be counted out, because Americans have short memories, and most Americans aren't even watching politics this year.

Please search your own candidates - Ali Baba found my ommission of Jeb Bush last month.