- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

RICHMOND — Virginia is abuzz with rumors that Gov. Mark Warner may be on a short list of potential vice-presidential candidates for the Democratic ticket in November.

The rumor mill began churning after former Delegate C. Richard Cranwell called Mr. Warner, 49, the “next vice president” at Saturday night’s Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Day fund-raiser.

“I didn’t know I was going to be introducing the next vice president of the United States,” Mr. Cranwell, the dinner’s chairman and master of ceremonies, told the guests.

The governor’s endorsement of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts on Sunday further fueled the rumors, as the two spent the day together, watching President Bush’s interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in the governor’s mansion and attending church.

CNN reported that if Mr. Warner endorsed Mr. Kerry, the senator, if nominated, in return would consider the governor as a running mate.

Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls denied the CNN report and said there is no truth to the rumors. Miss Qualls said the governor is focused on tax reform.

“There’s only wild speculation in Virginia,” she said. “That’s just sort of fun and games among Virginia Democrats.”

Mr. Kerry’s spokesmen also denied the rumors yesterday, saying there is no “short list” of potential running mates, and that such a list would be presumptuous because so many states have yet to hold primary elections.

“John Kerry is focused on winning the Democratic nomination,” said Mark Kornblau, a spokesman for Mr. Kerry. “There is still a long way to go.”

Still, the Internet keeps humming with speculation of Mr. Warner as a Democratic vice-presidential candidate. Dozens of political Web sites named the Virginia governor as a potential running mate, along with Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, North Carolina Gov. Michael F. Easley and Sen. Bob Graham of Florida.

When Mr. Kerry won the Virginia primary Tuesday, Mr. Warner’s presence behind the senator during his nationally televised victory speech didn’t go unnoticed in Richmond.

Political strategists say if Mr. Kerry gets the nomination, he would need a Southerner to balance the Democratic ticket in the general election.

Mr. Warner “would certainly be on some list of candidates.” said Delegate John S. Reid, Henrico County Republican.

“It’s probably appropriate,” Mr. Reid said. “He’s a governor from a Southern state. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.”

Virginia Democrats say the governor would boost the party’s presidential hopes.

“He’d be a very attractive candidate,” said Delegate Brian J. Moran, Alexandria Democrat. “He’s from the South, he’s young and dynamic. He would have a lot of appeal.”

Mr. Moran was standing next to Mr. Warner on the Kerry victory platform Tuesday night when the governor congratulated the senator.

“I told the governor he sounded like a vice-presidential candidate after the speech,” said Mr. Moran, chairman of the state House Democratic Caucus.

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