A winner from the Old Dominion

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With the 2008 presidential election still more than two years away, the Democrats seem to be preparing to lose again after losing seven of the past 10.

Why?

Many think that power, status, or even name identification count more than winning. Going down in flames, no matter how close, is a distant second to actually winning.

Of course, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton leads in the polls now. No surprise there.

She has the Clinton name, she's a senator from a populous state, and she will almost certainly win re-election this fall. Those are solid credentials.

But can she win the presidency even if nominated? I agree with those who answer with a resounding no. She is the most polarizing figure in politics today, except for President Bush and Dick Cheney. There is little room for indecision on her–voters appear to either love her or hate her.

Meanwhile, the possible field of wannabes grows every week. The list now includes Senator Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, Tom Vilsack, and Russ Feingold. Maybe even Al Gore. (Apologies to anyone I've missed.)

The man to watch, however, is former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia.

The only three Democrats to win the presidency since 1976 are two Southern governors–Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton twice.

Hello, Democrats, can you see a little trend here?

Eastern liberals don't seem to be the ticket, with no realistic hope of carrying any southern or border state or likely mountain state either. The margin for error gets mighty slim. Ask Gore and Kerry.

Warner was elected in a bright-red state. A successful businessman and not a career politician, he served with some distinction for four years. He left office this year since the Old Dominion still doesn't permit successive re-election. He was popular enough to lend a huge hand to his lieutenant governor, Tim Kaine, who succeeded him last month.

The backdrop for Warner's success is astonishing. Virginia hasn't gone Democratic in a presidential election since Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater in 1964. No wins, 10 defeats since then. As Virginia's suburbs continue to grow and tend to lean Democratic, the state could change color, but not yet.

But Warner's term in office was so strong that he even was able to win over some Republicans to pass a much needed tax increase. It may not impress the tax haters like Republican Grover Norquist, but it didn't alienate many Virginians.

All of this means that if Democrats want to win in 2008, they'd better give this man more than a passing glance.