INDIANOLA, Iowa – Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner spent Sunday afternoon motivating Democratic activists about the November elections, but he left little doubt he is also anxiously awaiting the 2008 presidential election.
Warner is considering a run at the White House, and is joining several other potential candidates in establishing a presence in the state that launches the presidential nominating season.
"You know and I know that it all starts in Iowa," said Warner, who mingled with Democratic activists at Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's 29th annual steak fry. "Do your part. We're going to take back the Congress this year and then we're going to take back our nation."
Warner opened a three-day swing through Iowa as a late addition to the steak fry, the highest profile event of the campaign season so far. More than 2,000 people gathered at a county park to munch steaks, sip beer and listen to hours of political rhetoric. The event was keynoted by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Warner gave a brief, two-minute pep talk to the activists, seeking to fire them up for the looming election. The real work for Warner was the two hours he spent chatting, taking pictures and pressing the flesh with the crowds.
Warner accused President Bush of using the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to inject the issue of terror into the race. Warner said the strategy is proof that the GOP is nervous and trying scare voters.
"I think Americans feel President Bush missed an opportunity on the fifth anniversary of 9/11 to bring our country together, to call us to some level of common cause and shared sacrifice," Warner told The Associated Press.
Warner said voters are hungry for real solutions, not the rhetoric the White House is using about fighting terrorism.
Republicans have argued that Bush's approval ratings have improved, and they have a chance for success in November because the fight for Congress is comprised of local elections and is not a national referendum.
Warner rejected the logic, saying Bush's approval has slightly improved because he had nowhere else to go.
"When you are at an all-time record low, there's only one direction you can go," said Warner.
Warner opens his day Monday in Des Moines before heading to southeast Iowa for another steak fry held by state legislative candidates.