Pick for keynote speech shows Obama’s focus on Virginia
August 13, 2008
HONOLULU ” Barack Obama chose Mark Warner, Virginia’s Senate candidate and former governor, to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic convention, underscoring Democrats’ all-out effort to win the Southern state for the first time since 1964.
The move announced Wednesday also raises questions about the prospects of Obama choosing Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine as his running mate.
Warner is to speak on Aug. 26, the second day of the convention in Denver, while the yet-to-be-named vice presidential nominee is slated to address delegates a day later on Aug. 27.
Kaine is among a handful of Democrats said to be under serious consideration for the No. 2 spot.
Would the Illinois senator devote two major prime-time national addresses to politicians from the same state?
It’s possible, given the attention Obama already is lavishing on the state.
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He has visited Virginia a couple of times at least since wrapping up the nomination and is pouring money and manpower into it. Democrats consider the state the most promising as they seek victory in Southern and Western states that George W. Bush won in the last two elections and that Republicans have held for decades.
At the very least, placing Warner in the national spotlight could help boost his own Senate campaign; he is trying to succeed retiring Republican John Warner and give Democrats a hold on both of the state’s seats.
The keynote address is a plum speaking spot that often is a springboard to national prominence. Obama, then a Senate candidate from Illinois, delivered it four years ago and began a rise in national politics expected to reach the Democratic nomination for president.
Obama’s campaign called Warner an innovative businessman and bipartisan leader, fitting for the evening’s theme of economic opportunity.
“Like Barack Obama, Mark Warner is not afraid to challenge the status quo to bring people together and get things moving,” campaign manager David Plouffe said in a statement. “It’s that kind of spirit and innovation that resulted in his selection as keynote speaker on a night when we will be discussing how to renew America’s promise.”
Warner, a businessman who became wealthy from work and investments in the cellular telephone industry, ran an exploratory campaign for the 2008 presidential nomination early in the race. He surprised many Democrats when he ultimately decided against running, saying he didn’t want to put the demands of a national run on his family. There was talk he might be a good running mate pick for Obama, but he removed himself from consideration, saying he would only pursue the Senate seat.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama’s rival during the presidential primaries, is also scheduled to speak Aug. 26, an indication that Obama probably won’t ask her to join the Democratic ticket.
Some news reports had incorrectly said Clinton would be the keynote speaker ” although the convention committee and campaign always described her as the Tuesday “headliner.” Clinton and Obama advisers have been in delicate negotiations over her role at the convention, with some of her supporters calling for her name to be put in nomination because of her strong second-place showing.
Giving Warner the prime role could be viewed as a slight to some of those supporters as the Obama campaign is working to build unity going into the fall election. But Sam Arora, a former Clinton staffer who co-founded a group, VoteBoth.com, that encouraged Obama to pick Clinton as his running mate, said Warner was a good choice.
“Mark Warner is the future of the Democratic Party, and putting him on Tuesday night with Hillary Clinton is exactly right move for Obama,” said Arora, who shut down the VoteBoth.com effort two weeks ago under the assumption that Clinton would not be picked. “They highlight Senator Obama’s vision and leadership qualities.”
A Clinton spokesman did not respond to a message for comment.
In an effort to reach out to anti-abortion Democrats, Obama gave Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, long an opponent of abortion, a speaking role the same Tuesday night that Warner and Clinton were to address delegates.
Casey is the son of the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, who was not given a marquee speaking spot at the 1992 convention because of his anti-abortion views. Bob Casey endorsed Obama over Clinton in his state’s primary.