The departure of former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia from the presidential chase is a blow to moderate Democrats who looked forward to a lively race for the nomination.
Warner, a self-made millionaire businessman, was a highly successful governor of a bright-red state. The state hasn't gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since LBJ whipped Barry Goldwater in 1964.
To be sure, Warner lacked charisma. But he was a solid executive whose record helped elect his successor, current Gov. Tim Kaine. Without Warner's popularity, Kaine would not have made it.
Warner said he didn't want to disrupt his family for the next two years. The reason is understandable, but he did venture in the country for the past year, including many trips to Iowa and New Hampshire.
For those of us who think Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton can win the nomination but then lose in November, Warner leaves the field wide open to other relative unknowns.
Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, another glowing-red state, is the centrist son of a former liberal senator, Birch Bayh. He has the smarts, but can he light up Democrats in the primaries?
Outgoing Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa is another possibility. He has a powerful story to tell as an orphan growing up in Pennsylvania who become a two-term governor of a Midwest state. But he has almost no name recognition beyond Iowa's borders.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina is already running hard. But he carries the baggage of being on a losing ticket last time as well as a trial lawyer who earned a fortune suing doctors.
The two previous nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry, could jump in, too. Gore polled 500,000 more popular votes than George W. Bush in 2000 and had to be counted out by the Supreme Court. Kerry was a narrow loser, too, who could have won had he carried Ohionow a state in political chaos under GOP rule.
For those who say, "Retreads," Richard Nixonthe ultimate retreadwas elected in 1968 after he lost a presidential race and a gubernatorial election in California. His story didn't end well, however.
The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton should be challenged if she chooses to run. Liberal activists are not solid behind her but close. However, it is important to remember that she is the second-most polarizing figure in America today. Bush has secured first place with ease. We're not counting Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, or Clinton would be fourth.
So run, Evan. Run, Tom. Let's have a real campaign.