Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia is stepping up as a potential Democrat challenger to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. With a 14-minute video, Webb announced an exploratory committee, saying that “thousands of concerned Americans” had urged him to run for president.
In his statement, Webb acknowledged that the Democratic Party had changed, and he offered a new vision for the future.
The Democratic Party used to be the place where people like these could come not for a handout, but for an honest handshake, good full-time jobs, quality education, health care they can afford, and the vital, overriding belief that we’re all in this together and the system is not rigged.
“We can get there again. The American dream does survive,” Webb added.
A Marine veteran, Webb ran against Republican Senator George Allen in 2006 as a long-shot Democratic challenger. Running as a political moderate opposed to the Iraq war, Webb quickly gained political momentum after Allen’s “macaca” moment, which drew a firestorm from national media, accusing the southern Republican of being a racist.
Webb has a long history of public confrontation with political leaders. When Webb was a secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, he resigned publicly and dramatically. And he earned respect from the left after he publicly denounced President George W. Bush for the war in Iraq, citing his experience in the Reagan administration. Webb also turned his ire against the Clintons, writing in the The Wall Street Journal in 2001 that “Bill and Hillary’s misadventures provide an echo of a different time and place, another set of values.” He cited their elitist views drawn from their education at Yale.
In the Senate, however, Webb’s independent character was stifled by Senate leadership as he frequently voted with his fellow Democrats on the Obama agenda.
Rather than face a tough re-election campaign rematch against Allen, Webb retired after serving just one term, retreating to his comfortable role as a writer and public antagonizer.