- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2008

RENO, Nev. | Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner hinted his Democratic National Convention keynote speech will focus as much on his famed “sensible center” as on getting things done.

“I think there is such cynicism about ‘Can you get politics to work again?’ ” Mr. Warner told The Washington Times on Sunday on a break from speech preparation. “I don’t want to say we got it completely right in Virginia, but there is a bit of a Virginia story here that we found some way to get Republicans and Democrats to work together and actually get stuff done.”

The Democrat acknowledged being “a tad nervous,” and he added that he hoped a recent minor basketball injury will heal enough to let him remove an Ace bandage before the big speech.

Virginia Republicans are sure to mock the “Virginia story” as nothing more than pressuring a bipartisan group of legislators to raise taxes by $1.38 billion in 2004, but Mr. Warner remains popular in Virginia.

Democrats view Mr. Warner of a strong example of someone who can win in a red state. He was elected governor in 2001 in part because of his repeated visits to Southside and Southwest Virginia. That’s one reason he will appear Wednesday with Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama in Martinsville, Va.

It’s also partially why Mr. Obama tapped the former governor to deliver the traditional Tuesday keynote address - the same slot that introduced Mr. Obama to the nation in 2004. Like Mr. Warner is currently, Mr. Obama was then a candidate for U.S. Senate.

“People in rural America are pretty much ignored other than in election time,” Mr. Warner said. “When I kept coming to Southside and Southwest, folks saw that it just wasn’t about politics and realized, ‘Hey, maybe this guy actually cares.’ ”

He said young people need to be given reasons to stay in their hometowns instead of seeking jobs in other places.

As governor, Mr. Warner tended to the struggling regions, bringing new jobs and opportunities such as technological innovation. It’s probable he’ll mention those in the speech, along with Virginia’s prized bond rating and reputation as a business-friendly state.

“There are stories to be told of success and wins,” he said, adding that his speech will say that the government “can’t just solve the country’s problems with just one side’s ideas.”

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