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'Family' Reasons? Theories Abound on Warner's Exit

The theory goes this way:

A year ago, when Warner was leaving office and thinking about his future, the political world looked like an inviting place for a moderate Democrat whose message has always been more about compromise than passion.

Having lost the presidency again in 2004, Democrats at the time were hungry for a victory, even if that meant accepting someone such as Warner, who didn't exactly sound like a rabid partisan. At speeches in Arizona, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in 2005, potential primary voters seemed eager to vote for Warner.

But since then, the political atmosphere has changed.

Democrats are now on the brink of taking control of Congress, and President Bush is back on his heels, defending the Republican party against charges on such issues as a bungled war and personal ethics lapses. Now Democrats are thinking that they've got the momentum.

If that's true, maybe they don't need someone such as Warner.

If the Democrats take over Congress, then Warner's ability to work with Republicans to get something done doesn't seem so necessary to his party. Democrats can nominate a deeply partisan candidate whose views parallel their own.

Is that what happened? Did Warner decide he couldn't win? We may never know for sure.

But one thing seems certain: We haven't seen the last of him. One person close to Warner said this week that he might just spend the next year campaigning quietly to be the Democrats' pick for vice president. It would be a low-risk, out-of-the-spotlight kind of campaign that has none of the downsides of a presidential bid.

We will know sometime in the spring or summer of 2008 whether that succeeds. In the meantime, we'll all just have to wonder why.

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