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Warner Declares For Sen

Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner launched a bid for U.S. Senate yesterday, with the first day of a four-day tour around the Commonwealth, including a stop in Alexandria, just outside Washington and seemingly designed to lure the media, tonight, the Washington Post reports. After bypassing a potential White House bid, Warner gives Democrats perhaps their best shot at capturing a Republican-held Senate seat this year.

Warner will face either former Governor Jim Gilmore or Delegate Bob Marshall in the November general election. Gilmore appears to be the heavy favorite heading into the state Republican convention, though every public poll so far has showed the Democrat easily outpacing Gilmore among likely general election voters.

Along the trail in his first week of official campaigning, Warner will be joined by current Governor Tim Kaine, who served as Warner's Lieutenant Governor, and freshman Senator Jim Webb, who beat George Allen in 2006. Both incumbents owe their seats, at least in some part, to Warner, who was first elected governor in 2001 after serving as state party chairman and virtually rebuilding what was once a beleaguered Democratic Party.

Though it has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson, Virginia is no longer the bastion of southern conservatism it once was. An influx of new voters into the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, plus Democrats' recent forays into the southwestern corner of the state, have caused Republicans serious heartburn in recent years, as the party has not won one of the top three posts since retiring Senator John Warner's big win in 2002 and Allen's election in 2000. Mark Warner did not run for re-election to the governor's mansion because of the state's one-term limit for the chief executive spot.

Should he win the Senate seat this year, a scenario that appears highly likely, Warner could find himself in prime position to make a future run for national office. If John McCain wins the White House this year, look for freshman Senator Warner's name to be floated as a potential presidential candidate four years down the line.