Democrats Pick Warner As Keynote Speaker

Democratic Senatorial candidate Mark R. Warner has led a successful career in both Virginia politics and the national political arena.
By Jonathan Weisman and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 14, 2008

Democratic Party leaders announced yesterday that former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner will deliver the keynote address at their national convention in Denver this month, positioning him prominently in a week-long lineup that seeks to pay homage to the party of the past while ushering in a new generation of leaders under Barack Obama.

The choice of Warner appeared to dim chances that the state's current governor, Timothy M. Kaine, would be selected as the Democrats' vice presidential nominee. If Kaine were chosen as Obama's running mate, two Virginians would have back-to-back prime-time speaking slots, a scenario that party officials regard as unlikely.

The convention, which will begin Aug. 25, will be studded with old and new faces. Monday will feature a tribute to the Kennedys. On Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) will speak and Warner will deliver his keynote address. Wednesday's program will be devoted to military issues and national security, and it will feature Obama's pick for vice president; two front-running vice presidential candidates, Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.), have speaking slots that day. Former president Bill Clinton will also appear on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Obama will accept the nomination before about 80,000 people jammed into Invesco Field at Mile High.

Kaine is slated to speak Tuesday, a day devoted to the economy and the environment. Democratic consultant Jenny Backus, a convention organizer, said most of the presumed vice presidential finalists have been booked for speaking slots other than the running mate's. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, for instance, is on the Tuesday program.

A source close to Kaine said this past Tuesday night -- before yesterday morning's announcement about Warner -- that the governor believed he would "get the silver medal" in the vice presidential sweepstakes. Obama's decision to make security the theme on the night his running mate speaks is regarded by party observers as a subtle hint that Kaine and other governors without foreign policy credentials might be less likely choices.

Kaine had become the subject of intense speculation during the past two weeks, after reports that he provided documents to Obama's campaign and told friends that the conversations about the No. 2 job were "serious."

He also quickly became the focus of sharp Republican attacks. On the day the reports appeared, one GOP source said that an Obama-Kaine ticket would be the "least experienced ticket in the history of the world."

Karl Rove, the former top political aide to President Bush, said on "Face the Nation" this week that Kaine has been "able but undistinguished" and disparaged his qualifications, saying he had only been mayor of the nation's 105th-largest city.

"So if he were to pick Governor Kaine," Rove said, referring to Obama, "it would be an intensely political choice where he said, 'You know what? I'm really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States? What I'm concerned about is, can he bring me the electoral votes of the state of Virginia?' "

Although an earlier generation of Democrats will receive recognition at the gathering, convention aides made it clear that the party's page will be turning in Denver.

"This is a new Democratic Party. Yes, the Clinton voices are very important. So are people left over from the Kerry campaign and even John Edwards's supporters. But we're going to show off a new generation of leaders," said a Democratic official close to the organizing.

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