Warner for VP?

Robert Novak

5/24/2008 12:01:00 AM - Robert Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a strong favorite to be elected to the Senate this year, has told associates that he is being considered as Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate. He did not indicate whether he would be receptive to such an offer.

Removing Warner from the campaign for the seat now held by retiring Republican Sen. John Warner (no relation) would turn a sure Democratic takeover to a question mark. Mark Warner is heavily favored against the Republican nominee, former Gov. Jim Gilmore, but no substitute Democratic candidate is at hand.

Although no Democratic presidential nominee has carried Virginia since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, Democrats see the state as being in play for the 2008 election and would like to see a Virginian on the national ticket. Both current Gov. Tim Kaine and freshman Sen. Jim Webb have been mentioned, but neither possesses Warner's prestige.

MCCAIN'S LOBBYIST

The embarrassing dismissal from Sen. John McCain's campaign of former Rep. Tom Loeffler as a top fundraiser because he is a lobbyist is blamed by political insiders on one of the many mistakes made when the McCain organization was put together.

Loeffler has been one of Washington's powerhouse lobbyists for many years, but he never has been renowned for fundraising skills. His most visible lobbying client has been the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Loeffler was a congressman from Texas in the 1980s and a major figure in the House as chief deputy Republican whip.

LIDDY IN TROUBLE

Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who previously was thought to be fairly safe for re-election this year, has become one of the top Democratic targets among incumbent Republican senators. Only John Sununu in New Hampshire and Norm Coleman in Minnesota are considered more vulnerable.

Two separate independent polls show Dole leading the Democratic nominee, State Sen. Kay Hagan, by only five and four points, respectively. Sen. Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket is expected to bring out a big African-American vote for Hagan.

Aware that she is in a difficult race, Dole has been traveling the state and spending no time in Washington when floor votes are not scheduled in the Senate.

SPECTER'S OPPONENT?

Pennsylvania's popular Democratic Gov. Edward Rendell is reported by party sources to be considering a race for the Senate in 2010 even if his friend and fellow Philadelphian, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, seeks re-election.

Specter has indicated that he wants a sixth term in the Senate, but that may depend on his health. He is suffering from a recurrence of cancer.

Republican insiders believe that Specter might decide to run as an independent if conservatives launch another serious Republican primary campaign against him, as they did in 2004. A three-way election would all but guarantee the election of a Democrat.

WHY FOSSELLA STAYS

Hard-pressed House Republican campaign managers breathed a sigh of relief when disgraced Rep. Vito Fossella, the only Republican House member from New York City, did not resign from Congress this month, as it was widely reported that he would.

A Fossella resignation before July 1 would have enabled Democratic Gov. David Paterson to call a special election to fill the seat. Although the Staten Island district long has been held by Republicans, even more distinctly Republican districts in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi have been lost this year in special elections.

House Republican leaders did not want to conduct another special election, particularly in the wake of the Fossella scandal. When the six-term congressman recently was arrested for drunken driving in the Washington area, it was revealed he was maintaining separate households in New York and Washington. He satisfied what party leaders wanted by announcing he would not seek re-election but not resign for now.