Warner Won't Make 2008 Run For President

Mark Warner Greets Clayton Carmody in Iowa
Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner greets Clayton Carmody, of Colo, Iowa, right, before speaking to Story County Democrats at a luncheon, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006, in Ames, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall -- AP)

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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 13, 2006

RICHMOND, Oct. 12 -- Former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner unexpectedly announced Thursday that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, citing the personal toll a run for the White House would have on his family.

Before Thursday, all signs pointed to a Warner candidacy. His repeated trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and other states with early primaries were largely successful, as voters greeted him with interest. He had raised $9 million for his political action committee. And he was positioning himself as a moderate alternative to another potential candidate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

But Warner said Thursday that he had decided in the past few days that a presidential campaign would interfere with his family life even as his eldest daughter is starting to look at colleges. He said he did not want to put his "real life" on hold for the next two years.

"This moment in life is not the right time for me," Warner, 51, told reporters at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. "When and where, I don't know right now. But I guarantee you'll see me. I'm not going away from being involved in how we get our government fixed."

Warner, a millionaire and a founder of Nextel (now Sprint Nextel), insisted that he was not running away from scandal. "Politics is a body contact sport at this point," Warner said. "But, no, that was not [a consideration]. I understand folks in the political world will question it."

Warner's announcement stunned a growing cadre of political consultants, donors and volunteers in Virginia and elsewhere who were convinced that he would soon reveal plans to compete for the Democratic nomination. Not long ago, it appeared that Virginia could have a presidential candidate from each major party. Now, Warner is out, and Sen. George Allen (R) is in a close reelection campaign, and questions of racial insensitivity may have damaged his presidential aspirations, according to many GOP analysts.

Warner, who has been grappling with the decision for weeks, said he made up his mind during a Columbus Day weekend with his wife, three daughters and 81-year-old father in Connecticut. But the timing -- Warner made another trip to Iowa on Thursday -- left everyone in his political orbit struggling to understand.

Advisers who were in his kitchen cabinet when he was governor were shocked by the decision during a conference call Wednesday night; they had been told initially that Warner wanted to discuss "strategy." Several of his staff at Forward Together, the political action committee that was being fashioned into a full-blown presidential campaign, burst into tears when he told them at 9 a.m. Thursday. Word of Warner's plans soon leaked out.

"Everyone's devastated," said John Graham, his chief operative in New Jersey. "Why would a person pull out this fast? Is there something we don't know? Maybe he's not ready emotionally. All I ever said to him was, 'You're running, right?' And he said, 'Yes, I am.' "

Virginia Republicans, too, said they were surprised. But the decision prompted a bit of quiet celebration among GOP leaders who had watched Warner capitalize on his state tenure to run for national office.

"I've never really understood where the substance was," said Del. M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who battled Warner's successful 2004 plan to raise taxes to pay for a growing government. "He's a guy whose only real legacy was raising taxes."

Warner rejected the idea that he was afraid he would lose to Clinton or one of the other as-yet-unannounced Democrats who could contest the nomination.


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