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EDITORIAL: Mark Warner, Virginia’s pretend centrist

Democrat cruises commonwealth pretending to be anyone but himself

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Sen. Mark R. Warner wrapped up his "Working Together" campaign tour of rural Virginia on Monday. He spent nearly a week barnstorming mostly through the parts of the state where a tourist might actually see a barn, including the places where he took pains to conceal how liberal he is. A speech Thursday in Richmond, for example, conveniently omitted all reference to President Obama.

But Mr. Obama is never far from Mr. Warner's heart. He has voted the White House line 97 percent of the time. Even Bo, the first family's Portuguese water dog, isn't that obedient.

His amiable demeanor masks a radical voting record that he began compiling in 2009 with one of his first votes, backing the president's failed $865 billion economic-stimulus down to his crucial 60th vote to enable the government's takeover of health care.

Mr. Warner's first-term record includes having voted for the Democrats' 2014 budget, which would add nearly $1 trillion in new taxes over 10 years while adding $7 trillion to the national debt.

Nonetheless, the senator told his Richmond audience, while keeping a straight face, that the nation's $17.5 trillion debt keeps him awake at night. "The reason why I'm going to ask you to rehire me," he said, "is because there's much more work to be done."

With a personal net worth estimated at north of $240 million, Mr. Warner is among the very top 1 percent of the "1 percenters" his party so reviles. Mr. Warner has a net worth and a business background similar to that of Mitt Romney, but the class-warfare criticism doesn't apply to anyone who bankrolls Democratic campaigns, as Mr. Warner has done his entire career.

No matter how big the tax increase, Mr. Warner's checkbook can easily cover it. His constituents, not so easily. Virginians in the southwestern part of the state don't take kindly to Mr. Obama's "war on coal" and the Environmental Protection Agency's carbon-dioxide emissions regulations proposed Monday, which will send electricity rates soaring.

The new rules would devastate Virginia's coal country, based on the silly premise that carbon dioxide — the harmless gas that all humans exhale — is an "air pollutant." The rules taken to the logical extreme would enable the government to regulate everyone as a source of bad air.

If the Virginians hit hardest by Obamacare and the war on coal realize that Mr. Warner is among those making their lives difficult, he won't get an easy cruise to re-election. Ed Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and his likely opponent in November, will keep that Warner record squarely in his sights.

Given Mr. Warner's relatively high favorability rating, his bottomless war chest and his vast personal fortune, Republicans have a tough task ahead. But pretending to care about the rural parts of the state over a six-day bus tour may not be enough to convince Virginians that he's really on their side.

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