The Future and Mark Warner

In the last minute of his keynote address tonight, Mark Warner drew on a favorite ploy of Virginia politicians since time immemorial: He invoked a hackneyed Thomas Jefferson quote. Tonight, Warner chose this one: “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”

It’s an odd choice for a man whose keynote address was a glorified résumé of his victories as governor of Virginia, a term that has been on the books now for almost three years. If you chanced upon this keynote address in a vacuum, you could be forgiven for missing the fact that Warner is now running for the U.S. Senate. Maybe it’s because he’s expected to wallop his opponent, Jim Gilmore. But one can’t help get the feeling that Warner is lukewarm on his personal future in politics.

During his four years in Richmond, Warner fancied himself the CEO governor, forged by a career in business that made him fabulously rich and adept at running a government efficiently. This image worked well for him as governor. But it will make the transition to senator—a famously punishing one for people who like to be the boss—even more difficult than usual.

Warner has joked—painfully—about how Barack Obama stepped seamlessly into the role that Warner carved out for himself in the party. Now he faces, in the next six years, the infinite tedium of being a freshman senator among a crowded field of rising stars in the Democratic party. For someone with such high ambitions, we can only imagine that he indulges occasionally in a little history of the past.