Mark Warner can see the future…and it’s already scaring him

Despite his reputation as the great magician of Virginia politics, Mark Warner has only won two campaigns for office – as few as George Allen, Bob McDonnell, and Bill Bolling – and never in what would be considered a Republican-friendly year. Under normal circumstances, as an incumbent barely polling over 50% of the vote, Warner’s quick turn to the negative against Ed Gillespie would be expected. It is only due to his reputation as a political wunderkind that Warner has surprised anyone. That said, he has also damaged that reputation, and made it clear he considers himself vulnerable. That he would choose to end his perception of inevitability so soon is a surprise, but from his perspective – based on what he’s seeing in Washington – he might not have much choice. If Ed Gillespie is even considered to be competitive in October, he will likely become Senator-elect in November. Here are the elements of the perfect storm Warner is desperate to avoid.

The national trend for Democrats: Simply put, it’s bad for the Democrats. How bad? Bush 2006 bad (Jim Geraghty), and if we’ve forgotten what happened the last time a one-term Senator in Virginia dealt with an unpopular president in his own party during a mid-term election, you can be assured that Mark Warner hasn’t. Of course, Democrats will tell themselves that Warner would never make Allen’s mistakes, but Warner knows that Democrats can make those mistakes for him.

This brings me to the next piece – the possible government shutdown over the Ex-Im Bank: Democrats in Washington are increasingly convinced they can divide and embarrass the Republicans by tying the re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank to keeping the government running past September 30 – the last day of the fiscal year, and the day with the Bank’s current authorization runs out (Bloomberg). The Bank itself has been a major boon to some of America’s biggest firms – especially Boeing, so much so that Ex-Im has been dubbed “the Bank of Boeing” for years. Depending on one’s point of view, it is either the poster child for corporate welfare or a vital part of our export policy.

From a tactical perspective, the Democrats’ plan seems sound; forcing Republican divisions over Ted Cruz’s “defund Obamacare” plan looked like political gold, and the fault line on Ex-Im runs right through the GOP (including this very blog). From a strategic perspective, however, it’s a potential for disaster. Do the Democrats really think switching sides in class warfare will help them? Can Elizabeth Warren really talk up the Bank of Boeing without exposing her higher ambitions to dynamite? What happens when Capital-P Progressives (who are already wincing at this idea) take to the airwaves?

More to the point, Ex-Im dies at 12:01 AM on October 1. So as soon as any shutdown begins, it will be Democrats pushing the shutdown to change the status quo – the exact opposite from the 2013 shutdown debate (when, despite Cruz’s assertions, Obamacare couldn’t really be stopped).

Closer to home, it should be lost on no one (and certainly isn’t lost on Warner) that the only insurgent Republican to win a contested nomination against an incumbent (Dave Brat) was also the only one who found issues to appeal to crossover Democrats (Brat emphasized TARP and Ex-Im). Gillespie has already followed Brat into opposing Ex-Im’s continuation (Rick Sincere, a.k.a. the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner).

This leads to the last piece – a united Republican Party, which is something Warner has never faced before. Gillespie’s nomination victory was more substantial than Jim Gilmore’s 2008 squeaker over Bob Marshall, and limited government conservatives taking up Jeb Hensarling’s call to help defeat Ex-Im now have Gillespie as an ally. If Ex-Im becomes as high profile as Reid et al seem to hope, Gillespie can lead a strongly reunified GOP into the election.

In other words, Warner can see an October with an unpopular president, a Senate caucus defending the Bank of Boeing, and a unified Republican Party with a viable candidate – in short, a recipe for early retirement.

Warner can’t reverse the president’s position in the polls; nor can he convince Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer to avoid handing his opponent the perfect populist issue. He can do something about Gillespie’s viability; in fact, he has to do it in order to win, and he needs to be quick about it.

So perception and decorum be damned; before Mark Warner’s fellow Democrats can cripple him, he must cripple Ed Gillespie. Virginia, however, would be much better off if Warner failed.

@deejaymcguire | | DJ’s posts

  • Chris

    I haven’t been watching the Ex-Im issue closely but I think:

    1. That Reid will not actually shut down the government over it.

    2. That the optics of the VA Senate race are as D.J. lays them out even without a government shutdown.

    But I think the negativity has nothing to do with the optics. Yes, it’s a bad year for Democrats. Is Warner going negative because he’s scared of losing, or is he going negative because going negative is proven to work?

    • Cantor’s loss is pretty clear proof that going negative is no longer “proven to work.” It’s risky at best.

      • Chris

        I’m gonna disagree with that on its face. This blog has exhaustively covered the dynamics of Cantor’s loss. The fact that in such a complex race going negative didn’t save Cantor doesn’t prove that going negative doesn’t work.

        • All I’m saying is that you’ve got a pissed-off electorate who is saying tell me what you’re going to do and not how bad the other guy is. And, I don’t necessarily agree with what has been written here about the dynamics of the loss. What I saw as a resident of the 7th and previous supporter of Cantor (granted, a reluctant one), was that every ad, every flier that attacked Brat as a “liberal college professor” made someone else angry in addition to giving Brat name ID he could never have bought on his own. It’s just MHO, but I think there’s a huge disgust with Washington and with politics in general and when confronted with the negative campaigning (that has worked in the past), Joe Average Voter is going to respond with “Would you just STFU.” I’ll concede that it may play differently in a general election than it would in a primary, but I still don’t think it’s a safe bet.

          • Chris

            I’ll certainly agree that going negative could backfire on him. I just don’t see it as a sign of desperation, which seems to be D.J.’s view.

          • Perhaps, but I think with this and with his response to Sarvis that Norm wrote about, Warner at least knows this won’t be a cakewalk.

          • John Harvie

            Wouldn’t Warner want Sarvis to syphon off GOP votes?

  • If there is a government shut down over Ex-Im Bank, it will be the Republicans, not the Democrats, who do it.

    All opposition to rechartering the bank is coming from a handful of misguided Republicans. There is a bipartisan majority of responsible Republicans and Democrats who will vote to recharter the Bank.

    The Bank rechartering should get a fair, up or down vote in both Houses.

    • Chris

      I think D.J.’s take is from the Bloomberg article that suggests Harry Reid is going to outsmart himself by tying the Ex-Im bank to the Continuing Resolution, in hopes of making it seem like the GOP is shutting the government down again.

      My take is that that’s crazy, the Bank is way too small potatoes for the Democrats to expose themselves like that.

      But in that case, I also don’t see how there can be a government shutdown over the bank at all. Without a vote, the bank’s authorization simply expires. There would be an Ex-Im Bank “shutdown” but not a government shutdown.

      • The likely play right now is that an extension of bank is wedded to an omnibus spending bill or CR. That’s what he’s talking about.

        • Chris

          Today is the first time I heard of this issue (thank you Bearing Drift, no candy for you mainstream media!), but if that’s true I don’t see how holding up the CR over the Bank could be the GOP’s fault. There’s no good reason to wed the two.

      • MD Russ

        The entire flap over the Ex-Im Bank is a sham. As had been noted on this blog before, the Bank does not cost the taxpayers a dime. Like the Foreign Military Sales program, it actually makes a profit. All while generating business for US companies that creates jobs. And, it levels the playing field for US companies who must compete with foreign companies who are subsidized by their governments. Tell me again why we want to shut it down? And please reframe from using the buzz word du jour of “crony capitalism.” That is Tea Party-speak for the inane concept that free market business relationships should not be based in any way on mutual trust and confidence.

  • Warmac9999

    There is one set of unknowns that could impact this race big time, and that is the sudden and explosive release of diseased illegal/undocumented immigrants into the general population. Border patrol agents and likely others who have come into direct contact with these folks are starting to come down with illnesses – difficult to treat bacterial pneumonia is one example. (There hasn’t been enough time to assess the immigrants health and, in addition, many are just flooding across the border unchecked.)

    These immigrants are now being rapidly dispersed throughout the country via air, bus, and rail – all forms of transportation involving close contact. A disease outbreak, particularly one of unknown origin, could easily change the election dynamics.

    I know, this is goofy speculation – until it is reality, but this situation, created by Obama, is unique and dangerous. I add that massive numbers of Native American Indians died because of lack of immunity to European diseases. I doubt that the CDC can keep pace here but we shall see if my speculation prove unfortunately true.

    • Matt G.

      Ted Cruz failed because half the Republicans (ie inside the beltway ladder climbing a holes) ran to the nearest microphone and put a knife in his back at 0001 on 01OCT13. Instead of an opposition party the Republicans as a whole are what? I honestly don’t know anymore. Are they opposed to anything?

      Don’t quote Boehner lawsuit, it’s a feint. If he really meant it he would impeach Obama. The problem is the leadership doesn’t have the balls or brains to make an effective argument for that or anything really that is opposite what the Democrats want. That being the case, the only logical conclusion is that republican leadership are really at best moderate Democrats. Somebody please point out anything that would refute that. Yes the 12 of 13 crap argument is also bs too. You are a COEQUAL branch with the power of the purse. Using that argument makes you look like the weaklings that you are.

      For the love of god, say f u to the media and make a case for the platform that we supposedly stand for. And no, I don’t think I have really ever seen the case made for it at all in my political lifetime and at best about 30 years ago. I’m not voting for another “most electable” loser.

      OK sorry I’ll get off my soapbox. Just wanted the “responsible republicans” to realize they are just democrats in denial.

      Anyways, about the Ex-im bank. The govt does not need to be involved in this at all. The comparison to FMS is dumb because FMS is more about diplomatic relations than money. And if nothing else, the ex-im bank are just a corrupt bunch of beauracrats anyway (Google that if you don’t believe me).

      • Warmac9999

        The lawsuit against Obama is a sham – meaningless. Arresting and jailing Lerner for the term of this Congress and the likely next term would show that the Republicans have at least some courage of their convictions. She is not a compassionate figure but my guess is they won’t even do that because they fear more of the “war on women” baloney.

        And what happened and is happening in Mississippi has more than local implications. Cantor accepted defeat without complaint. As a result he is definitely viable for higher office. Cochran and the entire MS establishment are now in trouble – what was once a certain senate seat is now up for grabs. Crimes have been committed.

        • Chris

          Under what authority would they jail her?

          • Warmac9999

            Contempt of Congress carries with it penalties, and those penalties are not subject to executive branch or judicial intrusion.

          • Chris


            Reading the wiki page on it explains my confusion…the way you said “this term and the next” confused me because it didn’t sound like a statutory penalty – but I see that if she were held in inherent contempt of the House she could be “subjected to punishment as the chamber may dictate.” Same page suggests that a statutory penalty could then attach if the AG pressed charges, but the statutory crime is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than 12 months in prison.

            I wonder what the longest time someone has ever been imprisoned for inherent contempt is.

          • Warmac9999

            I don’t know if its the longest, but an EPA official was cited for criminal contempt, fined $10,000 and was sentenced to five years in prison. I don’t know the details here – sounds like some type of plea bargain was involved.

          • Chris

            Might have been multiple counts involved, if a plea that heavy was worth it.

    • MD Russ


      I don’t suppose that you have a link to this biological disaster in the making other than perhaps Storm Front?

      Here is a more rational report on the threat–there isn’t one. Illegal immigration is a problem that Obama has inflamed with his Executive Orders concerning deportation of children and women with young children, but making false and hysterical claims about infectious diseases does nothing to advance the argument. Please try to be a grown-up.

      • Warmac9999

        How about you google “Doctors warn about dangerous Diseases at the border”. Resistant TB, swine flue, bacterial pneumonia, scabies have already been encountered and reported by a number of major and secondary news organizations.

        Why are there gag orders on doctors if there is no threat? I hope to hell I am 100% wrong but my point is the border situation can have a much greater impact than just a few hundred thousand uncontrolled border crossers.

        As far as false and hysterical claims, I am not claiming this will happen but it is obvious that the risk is much higher than normal. Do what you will. I don’t care as I am intending to take very minor and low cost precautions and will watch various mainstream and alternate news sites, particularly UK news. Never heard of storm front so I will give it a look. On the other hand, you might want to check out infowars.

        • kelley

          you do wonder why there are gag orders on doctors.

          • Warmac9999

            This entire invasion has been orchestrated by Obama. As with obamacare, transparency is the last thing they want. This is an administration of lies that buries the truth in the shadows.

            I saw America the movie last week. It is very well done and allows the left to make their claims against this country and then takes on each point by point. Good movie for both conservatives and liberal to see.

  • I (and I think it’s safe to say that many others) couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the Export-Import Bank. Now that I’ve learned it actually makes a profit, more power to it. Nobody in their sane mind would believe that the Export-Import Bank is on any undecided voter’s radar.

    Warner wins on either outcome…

    A) The bank shuts down. Warner: “Hey look at my Government Shutdown opponent Mr. Gillooly. He and his obstructionist friends just killed another government program… and this one actually turned a profit! He’s no different from those nutball Cruz and Gohmert guys from Texas.”

    b) The bank stays open. Warner: “We used our bipartisan support to keep this bank going because it’s been useful and hey, it made money. Mr. Gorillapie has shown his true colors in trying to shut everything down and his ideas failed again. You want six more years of Ted Cruz Light in the Senate? Did I mention ‘bipartisan’?”

    60% of Virginia voters swoon “oooooh Mark Warner” and faint. Game over.

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