By Tim Craig and Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 15, 2008
HAMPTON, Va., June 14 U.S. Senate candidate Mark R. Warner took himself out of the running as a potential vice presidential candidate this year, telling about 2,000 delegates at the state Democratic convention that he will say no if Sen. Barack Obama offers him a spot on the ticket.
With Democrats saying that Virginia could be key to Obama's hopes of winning the presidency, the Obama campaign is reportedly considering Warner, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Sen. James Webb as possible vice presidential contenders.
But in his speech here to officially accept the Democratic nomination for Senate, Warner said he is "110 percent committed" to his race against former governor James S. Gilmore III, the GOP nominee.
"Let me be clear about this: I have been working very hard these last few months to ask the people of Virginia to give me the honor of being their United States senator," Warner said. "I will not seek, and I will not accept, any other opportunity."
Warner's speech capped a day-long event during which Kaine, Webb and other party leaders urged Virginia Democrats to unite behind Obama (Ill.).
Virginia last voted Democratic in a presidential election in 1964, but Obama has said he can turn the state blue this year in his race against Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee.
"Let's not fool ourselves about how hard it is going to be," said Kaine, one of Obama's national chairmen. "Senator Obama is trying to do something that has never been done before in the nation's history. He is trying to make changes in a political environment that generally doesn't like to change things."
Kaine also reached out to supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who suspended her campaign for her party's nomination June 7. After saying that there was a "lot of love in this room for Senator Clinton," Kaine said Obama needs a unified party if he is to carry Virginia, which President Bush won by eight percentage points in 2004.
But several Clinton supporters at the convention said they are unlikely to rally behind Obama, a sign that Democrats still face a hurdle in overcoming divisions created during the primaries.
Satish Korpe, a Clinton supporter from Alexandria, said it was a "long shot" that he could be persuaded to support Obama.
"I don't trust what he is saying," Korpe said. Novelist John Grisham, too, who attended the convention with his wife in support of Clinton, is not ready to back Obama.
"We're Hillary people," he said.
But Obama supporters outnumbered Clinton backers by more than 2 to 1, matching Obama's 65 percent showing in the state's Feb. 12 primary.
The intensity of Obama's support generated its own problems for Virginia Democrats, because so many of them were vying to go to the national convention in Denver.
About 150 Obama supporters campaigned Saturday for the dozen remaining delegate slots.
But before the vote, Kaine's staff and the Obama campaign agreed on a slate, designed to meet Democratic National Committee quotas on race and sex.
Many who were left out were disappointed.
"It's all in who you know," said Jhana Porter from Stafford County, who said she has traveled more than 10,000 miles volunteering for Obama's campaign across the country. "I have been very active in trying to get him elected but had no response in trying to get on the slate."
Many Obama supporters rebelled against the slate, instead voting for other candidates. Party officials were counting the ballots last night.
Despite the internal politicking and divisions, Webb told the audience that he's confident of an Obama victory in the fall.
"The next era we are moving into is going to be led by the next president of the United States, and his name is Barack Obama," Webb said in his trademark stern manner.
Webb said later that he has not spoken to Obama or his campaign about joining the ticket. When asked if he would accept a vice presidential slot if offered, Webb said, "That would be a conversation that would remain between me and Barack Obama."