- - Thursday, October 30, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Mark R. Warner is going door to door on Halloween with a nifty disguise. The freshman Democratic senator is wearing the mask of a moderate. It’s a trick to get his liberal voting record past Virginians amid the wave of anti-Democratic sentiment sweeping the nation.

Mr. Warner is leading Ed Gillespie, his Republican challenger, but not so comfortably as he once did. He remains below the 50 percent mark in the polls, and that’s a place no incumbent wants to be only four or five days out. Voters think they already know him. He’s not likely to pick up more votes before Tuesday. Mr. Gillespie is only now getting widely known, and can expect to pick up support as Virginia sees him as the most authentic man in the race.

New numbers compiled by CQ Weekly tear away Mr. Warner’s moderate mask to reveal someone with a perfect 117-for-117 record of backing President Obama’s liberal agenda in the Senate. Whenever the White House says jump, Mr. Warner dutifully asks, “How high?”

Mr. Warner boasts of reaching across the aisle to co-sponsor bills. It’s part of the Halloween disguise. “He likes to tout his bipartisan work,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, “but he’s really been a pack mule for Obama and the Democrats.”

Since arriving in Washington on the wave that swept Mr. Obama into the White House in 2008, Mr. Warner has earned a 4 percent score and an “F” rating from Conservative Review, based on his votes raising the debt ceiling, passing the porky farm bill, promoting amnesty and of course, enacting Obamacare. A true moderate would earn a score in the 40 percent to 60 percent range, as 18 Senate Republicans have done. No Democrats come close to that.

Mr. Warner will never be confused even with Sen. Susan M. Collins, the Maine Republican with a 12 percent moderation rating, and she is just a point more conservative than Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the current liberal Democratic rock star. Nor can Mr. Warner boast of the “maverick” status of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who wears his 55 percent rating as a badge of honor. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist who caucuses and votes with Democrats, outscores Mr. Warner with 14 percent.

Mr. Warner is hardly alone among Democratic senators dodging his past. Mark Begich of Alaska squeaked into office six years ago and won’t say the word “Obama” now lest voters wash his mouth out with lye soap. Even Mr. Obama’s press secretary responds to the senator’s Obamaphobia without the invocation that dare not speak the name. “I think the vast majority of Americans,” Josh Earnest said the other day, “would agree that whoever the sitting president of the United States happens to be is relevant in a lot of important ways.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the Democratic campaign chief, couldn’t name a single Senate race where Mr. Obama has been invited to campaign. Instead of the usual bluff and bluster one expects from a party chairman, Mrs. Wasserman Schultz isn’t hiding the likelihood of a Democratic bloodbath on Tuesday. “At worst, we’re going to be in single digits [with our losses].” The single digit of 6 is all it will take to put the Senate under the control of Republicans.

The only man we’ve seen willing to show his support for the president was the man who robbed a Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Salem, N.H., in an Obama mask. He got away with it. We’ll know next week whether Mr. Warner’s disguise works, too.

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