ONE-AND-A-HALF CHEERS FOR WARNER. Okay, he�s trying to fashion himself the common-good candidate, so naturally I hold a soft spot in my heart for Mark Warner. So take that for what it�s worth as I offer an alternate theory of the case to Ezra�s.

Here, to me, is the big 2008 picture (assume for the moment no run by Gore). You have Hillary. You have Edwards, who is now, by dint of a primary calendar that is so incredibly Edwards-friendly that I find it hard to understand why the other campaigns let it happen, a sort of co-front-runner. They�re your Jordan and Pippen, if you don�t mind a metaphor that exposes how long it�s been since I closely watched professional basketball. After them, your card is full of indistinguishables -- at this point.

But one of the B-level players will distinguish himself. Why? Because there will be concern (or, is concern) that HRC is not electable for personal reasons, and that Edwards is not electable for ideological reasons. So the Graham Greene candidate -- that is, the Third Man -- will at some point emerge.

History and logic tell us that this candidate will possess the following attributes: fairly centrist; respected (perhaps grudgingly, perhaps happily) by the pundit class; and, most of all, electable. I suspect that Warner may be the Third Man. So that�s obviously how he�s positioning himself.

Now, as to substance: I�m all for repealing the tax cuts. But I do wonder how much difference Warner�s position will make to the federal treasury. That is, President Edwards would presumably seek to repeal the cuts in 2009. President Warner would let them expire at the end of 2010. That�s just one year�s worth of revenue -- somewhere around $35 billion if I�m remembering correctly. And the difference may not even be that great: President Edwards� repeal, with the way tax law goes, would not take effect immediately when he signs the repeal in 2009 (and getting such a repeal passed in his first year is itself a best-case scenario), but probably sometime the following year -- i.e., the same 2010 that represents Warner�s position.

So the revenue difference, in federal budget terms, is getting pretty close to negligible to my mind, although I imagine Ezra will out-wonk me and produce more dramatic numbers.

On the point that seems to have our commenters worked up -- the 98 percent strive to be like the 2 percent -- I agree that that�s bad language that Warner shouldn�t be using. I suspect his progressivism, and he does have some, will manifest itself in other ways, on education and public infrastructure spending and broadband access and (Ezra, take note!) even health care. So Warner may merely be signaling that he�ll spend his political capital in other places. And remember, folks: He DID raise taxes in Virginia!

--Michael Tomasky

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