- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2001

In 1962, Edward Moore Kennedy, then just 30, in his first run for the Senate, was taken to task for his thin resume by his Democratic primary opponent, Edward J. McCormack Jr., a veteran Massachusetts pol.

At a debate at South Boston High School, Mr. McCormack skewered Mr. Kennedy with a line that became political lore in the Bay State: "If his name were Edward Moore, with his qualifications with your qualifications, Teddy if it was Edward Moore, your candidacy would be a joke."

Like Mr. Kennedy nearly 40 years ago, Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mark Warner's only qualifications appear to be a famous last name and tons of money. And like for Mr. Kennedy, that could well be enough.

But, happily, Virginia is not Massachusetts south.

With three weeks still to go before the Nov. 6 election, it's still not too late for his Republican rival, Mark L. Earley, who trails in the polls, to catch up and overtake him, but probably only if he takes off the gloves.

First: Mr. Earley must more sharply delineate the differences between his experience (10 years in the General Assembly and three years as attorney general) and that of Mr. Warner, who, though a successful businessman with an estimated personal fortune of $200 million, has never held public office.

He should note that Virginia is also not New Jersey, where an even-richer Democrat tycoon, also with no experience, in essence bought a U.S. Senate seat for $60 million. Suggested advertising slogans: "Virginia is not for sale" and "Experience money can't buy."

Second: Mr. Warner, while sending his own children to private schools (something he has every right to do), opposes school vouchers or tax credits, which would enable other Virginians not as well-heeled as he is to exercise the same school choice he enjoys.

Mr. Earley should not forgo pointing out this double standard so typical of limousine liberals the way George W. Bush inexplicably passed on making an issue of it against Al Gore last year. When discussing his support of educational tax credits, Mr. Earley notes that he sends his own five school-age children to public schools, but appears unwilling to close the loop by calling Mr. Warner what he is a hypocrite.

Third, in like fashion, Mr. Earley should exploit the wedge issues that had long been staples of successful Republican campaigns until they were abandoned in favor of the warm-and-fuzzy approach of recent years. Two that come readily to mind are abortion and homosexual rights.

Mr. Warner, when asked whether he would favor any further restrictions on abortion at their Sept. 30 joint appearance in Annandale, allowed that he was "not opposed to" the state's 4-year-old parental-notification law on teen abortions.

It's not reassuring to contemplate how vigorously Mr. Warner as governor would enforce a law one which enjoys wide popular support in a pro-life state that he is at best "not opposed to," much less the logical next step, parental consent.

Similarly, Mr. Warner has said repeatedly he's opposed to homosexual "marriage." Inasmuch there is a sub-zero chance of the General Assembly sending such a bill to the governor's desk, that may be a campaign tactic akin to what Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously referred to in another context as "boob bait for the Bubbas." But Mr. Warner has not been asked whether he would issue an executive order extending nondiscrimination protection to homosexual state employees or seek to grant them domestic partner benefits. He should be pressed on this.

As with his stance on gun control in an Oct. 3 debate, he repeatedly declined to answer directly a question about whether the National Rifle Association has been a good or bad influence on Virginia politics it may be that he's taking his cue from former Rep. Peter Kostmayer.

During Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential campaign, the Pennsylvania Democrat reportedly urged a Trojan Horse approach on his party's liberal special interest groups: "Just shut up. You'll get everything you want after the election."

That could also explain the lack of complaints from the party's usually noisy liberal base to Mr. Warner's claims of being "a fiscal conservative." And it certainly guarantees that he won't bring in Bill Clinton to campaign for him on the final weekend before the election, as the 1997 Democratic gubernatorial nominee did, during which Mr. Clinton characterized as "selfish" anyone who favored the demise of the hated car tax.

Finally, speaking of presidents, Mr. Earley should implore President Bush to reschedule his campaign swing to Virginia that was necessarily scrapped after the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes. At a minimum, Mr. Bush should cut radio and TV campaign commercials for Mr. Earley.

If Mr. Bush is serious when he says Americans must restore normalcy to their lives, or otherwise the terrorists "win," then it follows: What could be more normal in an election year than for a president to campaign for nominees of his party? With the president basking in the glow of 90-odd-percent public approval, Mr. Earley could benefit from the political halo effect of an endorsement from Mr. Bush.

Peter Parisi is on the staff of The Washington Times.

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