'Race for the Future Is On,' Warner Says

Senate Candidate Calls Obama Best Hope for Progress

Former Governor of Virginia, Mark Warner pushed a spirit of bi-partisanship but called Barack Obama the right man for the country, saying this presidential election year is a "race for the future."
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 27, 2008; Page A15

bvDENVER, Aug. 26 -- Mark R. Warner held up Virginia as a model for good government and warned during his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention that Sen. John McCain of Arizona cannot be trusted to lead the country to a prosperous future.

Part of Warner's speech centered on the themes he has frequently touched on during his Senate campaign against former governor James S. Gilmore III in Virginia, but he also sought to frame the presidential race between McCain (R) and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois as a contest that will decide whether the United States can make progress toward better technology, schools and respect around the world.

"Yes, the race for the future is on, and it won't be won if only some Americans are in the running," Warner told the delegates. "It won't be won with yesterday's ideas and yesterday's divisions. And it won't be won with a president who is stuck in the past."

But the former Virginia governor acknowledged this week that he is not a soaring orator and was not going to offer Democrats much "red meat" last night.

Delivering his arguments for Obama to respectful, but not roof-raising, applause, Warner largely steered clear of the fiery rhetoric that has dominated some keynote addresses. Those have often signaled that a political star was rising on the national stage, as it was with Obama four years ago or Ann Richards, Texas governor, in 1988.

Warner's speech might not have shaken the rafters, but it did put the spotlight again on Virginia's role in the presidential race. For decades, Virginia has been reliably Republican in such contests, but Obama is hopeful that he can win its 13 electoral votes this year by embracing many of the same themes that Warner and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) have promoted.

Warner said Obama would be a president who "understands the world today" and would work to reverse what the popular former governor called the failed the policies of President Bush's administration.

"John McCain promises more of the same," Warner said.

He stressed that the Democratic Party has to do a better job of reaching out to independents by showing that it can rise above partisanship.

He referred to his efforts as governor from 2002 to 2006 to work with moderate Republicans in the General Assembly to enact taxes to try to reverse Virginia's reputation for not spending enough on social services and education.

Warner used lofty rhetoric to get voters to think about the future and whether they want a Democratic or Republican president at the helm of the nation's economic and social policies.

"Right now, at this critical moment in our history, we have one shot to get it right," Warner said. "And the status quo just won't cut it."

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