Pre-emptive withdrawal

Former Virginia governor Mark Warner’s decision not to run for president took Washington by surprise. To most minds, Warner was nicely tucked in as the Democrats’ third candidate behind Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. On a political level, the decision is baffling, since Warner passed on the chance to run against the glass-jawed George Allen ...

606683_warner_snow5.jpg
606683_warner_snow5.jpg

Former Virginia governor Mark Warner's decision not to run for president took Washington by surprise. To most minds, Warner was nicely tucked in as the Democrats' third candidate behind Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. On a political level, the decision is baffling, since Warner passed on the chance to run against the glass-jawed George Allen this year in order to seed the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire. But it appears that this is one politician who isn't using the phrase "spend more time with my family" as a euphemism. 

From a global perspective, Warner's withdrawal is not that consequential, since he was a one-term governor who didn’t have any real experience in foreign policy. It does, though, weaken the pro-free trade forces in the Democratic Party, since John Edwards—who has taken to peddling the snake oil of protectionism—is the biggest electoral beneficiary of Warner’s decision to get out. The new Democratic nomination calendar of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina favors Edwards more than any other candidate. Since he is also now the only Southerner in the race, and the clear anti-Hillary candidate, you begin to think he has a serious shot. Then again, the man couldn’t carry his own state as VP. And the real heavyweights—Obama, Gore, and Bill Richardson (a literal, if not metaphorical, heavyweight)—might not stay on the sidelines if it looks like a welterweight is Hillary's most serious competition.

Former Virginia governor Mark Warner’s decision not to run for president took Washington by surprise. To most minds, Warner was nicely tucked in as the Democrats’ third candidate behind Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. On a political level, the decision is baffling, since Warner passed on the chance to run against the glass-jawed George Allen this year in order to seed the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire. But it appears that this is one politician who isn’t using the phrase “spend more time with my family” as a euphemism. 

From a global perspective, Warner’s withdrawal is not that consequential, since he was a one-term governor who didn’t have any real experience in foreign policy. It does, though, weaken the pro-free trade forces in the Democratic Party, since John Edwards—who has taken to peddling the snake oil of protectionism—is the biggest electoral beneficiary of Warner’s decision to get out. The new Democratic nomination calendar of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina favors Edwards more than any other candidate. Since he is also now the only Southerner in the race, and the clear anti-Hillary candidate, you begin to think he has a serious shot. Then again, the man couldn’t carry his own state as VP. And the real heavyweights—Obama, Gore, and Bill Richardson (a literal, if not metaphorical, heavyweight)—might not stay on the sidelines if it looks like a welterweight is Hillary’s most serious competition.

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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