I am back from the luncheon with Patrick Murphy and Governor Warner. It was held at the law offices of Dilworth-Paxon LLP on the 32nd floor of a building on 17th and Market Streets. I had a spectacular view of all of South Philly as I ate my thick slab roast beef sandwich and listened to Mark Warner and Patrick Murphy deliver excellent speeches and take tough questions from high powered attorneys. The blogworld was represented by Atrios, Susie Madrak, Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg, and me. Susie and Duncan actually kind of dressed up. Alex and I crashed their suit party in our typical summer garb, much to the consternation of some of the more staid rainmakers. One of them asked me if I go surfing in a suit and tie. I assured him that I did.

So…a few observations. First of all, high powered attorneys look just like Republicans…white, well-fed, expensive cuff links, big white fuzzy untrimmed eyebrows. But looks can be deceiving. These are the real DLC Democrats. They want free trade and corporate friendly policies. And they don’t want anyone to mess with the bottom line for trial attorneys. They’re allies, but only to a point. Warner knew just what to say to them.

And Warner was very, very impressive. He keeps improving every time I see him, and I would characterize his performance as just shy of Clintonesque. He was inspiring. Here are the points that he really drove home.

1) Deficit spending and energy policy. Borrowing money from the Chinese to pay for gasoline from Iran is not a winning strategy. It not only keeps us from being able to demand that the Chinese let their currency float, it also enriches our enemies. We need to stop borrowing money and we need to get really aggressive about alternative energy. Of course this all ties into all the other big issues of the day, like global warming, and the need for domestic investment in education and infrastructure.

2) Iraq and Iran. Warner’s position has changed since I talked to him in April or May. His new line is: staying in Iraq isn’t making us safer and we need to get out. But getting out without a plan isn’t any better than going in without a plan. When asked what the plan is, he says the plan is to take back Congress. It’s a slippery piece of rhetoric, but very effective. The timeline debate didn’t come up, and I am sure that was intentional. Nevertheless, there is a now a visible gap between Warner and Lieberman’s respective positions.

He is concerned about Iran, and sees Iraq as crippling our ability to deal with them effectively. He is hopeful that we can convince the Chinese and Russians to back up some tough sanctions. I guess we should all be hoping that so we don’t have to see a string of Roman candles go off in Dick Cheney’s head.

3. Education and jobs. Warner was most impressive when he got going on investing in education and making sure America regains the lead on hi-tech. He tied together an impressive amount of proposals to put forth a vision of a reinvigorated America. He talked about bringing hi-tech to rural America, including investments in broadband. He talked about destigmatizing vocational education and really investing in it. He talked about letting both regular high schoolers and vocational students spend a semester of their senior year taking credits towards a college degree. This would save a semester of credit hour costs, incentivize people to stay in school, get people on the road to higher education, and prevent kids from slacking off at the end of the year. He talked about state efforts to extend health care to all kids, and eventually all Americans, and the importance of getting health care right so we can compete in a global market. And he covered a lot of other topics with a display of far ranging and deep knowledge.

Warner is going to be a formidable candidate for the nomination and we could do a lot worse from the centrist wing of the party.

I attended a press conference after the luncheon, where Warner and Murphy took questions. Warner seemed a little tired and a little off delivering the same lines he had laid out moments before. And I realized that he is doing two more of these events today. One for Lois Murphy and one for Joe Sestak. Running for President is a truly grueling exercise. We’re over two years out and Warner is keeping a very full schedule.

Patrick Murphy is not as polished or as confident as Mark Warner, but he continues to get better on the campaign trail. He has a lot of momentum now and just flat-out won a debate with Mike Fitzpatrick. I really like him and his beautiful new wife, Jennifer. They are going to be rock-stars on Capitol Hill.

As for the partners at Dilworth-Paxon, I’d like to thank you for letting my surfer-looking ass into your plush offices. You guys are all right. And you serve a mean roast beef.

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