Democratic Governor Mark Warner has officially declined to challenge incumbent George Allen for Virginia’s Senate seat next year. Warner, who is barred from a second consecutive term by Virginia’s state constitution and will leave office in January, is widely rumored to be considering a run at the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. It is a wise move for the governor, whose presidential hopes would have been severely damaged by a defeat versus Allen. Now he can concentrate on polishing his moderate image, which he hopes will make him an attractive alternative to Hillary Clinton or whatever liberal comes out of the Howard Dean wing of the party. Warner remains popular in Virginia despite what many argue was an unnecessary tax hike last year.
Warner’s decision also means George Allen will likely have a cakewalk to reelection next year. That’s great for his own presidential aspirations which are definitely beyond sleeper status at this point. Even though Allen v. Warner won’t be happening next year, there remains a good possibility Virginia’s two heavyweights will duke it out for an even bigger prize three years from now.