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Former leading Republican senator: 'It goes beyond politics now'

John Warner's support for so many Democratic candidates speaks to a larger truth: '90s-era Republican moderates are today's Democratic voters.
Sen. John Warner speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Aug. 23, 2007 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)
Sen. John Warner speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Aug. 23, 2007 in Washington, D.C.

When former Virginia Sen. John Warner (R) endorsed Sen. Tim Kaine's (D) re-election, it raised a few eyebrows. After all, the former five-term senator is a giant of Virginia Republican politics, and it wasn't long ago that it seemed implausible he'd throw his support behind one of Virginia's most notable Democrats.

But as it turns out, he wasn't done. Warner then endorsed Leslie Cockburn, the Democrat in Virginia's competitive 5th congressional district, and late last week, he made another surprise announcement.

Former Virginia GOP Sen. John Warner tells NBC News he is endorsing several Democrats for Congress in 2018, including Abigail Spanberger, who is challenging GOP Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia's seventh congressional district.Now is the time to rise above politics, Warner, a dean of the Virginia Republican Party, told NBC News."It goes beyond politics now. I'm a Republican, I'll finish a Republican as I cruise through my 91st year. But you've got to put the nation's interests and the state's interests ahead of politics," Warner told NBC in a phone interview.

All of this comes just two years after Warner also endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

"Once you're retired and doing what you want to do, you're free of any constraints," Warner added in his NBC News interview. "I just feel that the Democrats have got superior credentials to what is being offered."

We'll learn soon enough whether the former GOP senator's backing helped sway some votes or not, but I think Warner's willingness to throw his backing behind Democratic candidates speaks to a larger truth.

If '90s-era fringe Republicans have become today's conservative Republicans, and '90s-era conservatives have become today's GOP moderates, what have '90s-era moderate Republicans become?

Evidently, Democratic voters.