Jim Webb For President?

The former Virginia Senator is talking about running for President.

Sen. Jim Webb talks to CNN's John King about the political conflict in Libya.

Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who declined to run for re-election after serving just one term after expressing frustration with the way Washington is run, seems to be seriously considering the idea of running for President as a Democrat in 2016:

Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb said Tuesday that he is “seriously looking at the possibility” of running for president in 2016, in a speech to a roomful of reporters in which he laid out a set of policy concerns and goals for government.

Should he follow through, Mr. Webb, a Democrat, would make an intriguing challenger to the party’s presumptive front-runner, Hillary Clinton. A former senator who chose not to seek a second term, Mr. Webb also has been secretary of the Navy and served in combat in Vietnam. Democrats would have a second option for a nominee seasoned in international affairs at a time when national security is again a major issue.

Mr. Webb, 68 years old, spoke of income inequality and other domestic issues, but he devoted the bulk of his address at the National Press Club in Washington to U.S. involvement abroad. He offered a harsh assessment of the Obamaadministration’s foreign policy, calling the country “adrift.”

“Our foreign policy has become a tangled mess in many cases of what can only be called situational ethics,” he said. “In the area of international relations, it’s not a healthy thing when the world’s dominant military and economic power has a policy based on vagueness.”

He said the lack of a clear foreign policy had caused the U.S. to become entangled in a series of crises in the Middle East.

Mr. Webb, who was elected to the Senate in 2006, did not explicitly criticize the U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. But he quoted advice he was given while in Beirut in the 1980s to “never get involved in a five-sided argument,” and he cautioned against U.S. forces getting overly involved. ”We should never become an occupying force in that part of the world,” he said.

On President Barack Obama’s decision to order airstrikes in Syria, he said, “The question of judgment will remain to be seen.”

If Hillary Clinton does run for the Democratic nomination, which seems fairly certain at this point, then Webb would obviously not be in any better position to challenge her seeming inevitability than any other candidate, and if she doesn’t run than Webb would be a very small player in what would quickly become a very crowded Democratic field. Assuming Hillary runs, though, Webb seems to be suggesting that he would play the role of the alternative candidate pushing issues that Clinton would likely avoid in her campaign and, in some way, perhaps pushing Clinton to tackle those issues herself. This has also been the idea behind the speculation that people like Elizabeth Warren, Brian Schweitzer, and Bernie Sanders might toss their own hats in the ring, notwithstanding the fact that at least on of them, Warren, has explicitly said that she’s not running on several occasions, The difference between these candidates and Webb, though, is that each of them has some appeal among the liberal base of the Democratic Party that seems to be pushing for something more than a coronation in 2016. Webb doesn’t really have those links. He’s somewhat of a populist like Schweitzer, I suppose, but politically he’s far more middle of the road than any of those three and, indeed, perhaps to the right of Clinton on some issues, which isn’t really the path to any kind of success in the Democratic Party.

There are other negatives when it comes to a Webb candidacy. As Larry Sabato noted when Webb declined to run for re-election in 2012, while he may have been a good Senator, Webb isn’t a particularly good politician and he clearly doesn’t enjoy the kind of campaigning that someone running for President would need to do on a daily basis if their candidacy is going to go anywhere at all. This was something that was, quite honestly, evident even when Webb first ran for Senator in 2006, especially given the fact that it reportedly took a significant amount of cajoling from state and national leaders for him to agree to run in the first place. Many saw the fact that he didn’t run for re-election as a reflect of this disdain for the “meat and potatoes” of politics as well. If you’re going to run for President, you’d better like campaigning because that’s all you’re going to be doing for the better part of a year. Additionally, Webb has said things in the past that are likely not going to go over well with Democrats, such as his stated fondness for his Confederate ancestry and denunciation of attacks on the Confederacy and his statement in 2004 that John Kerry should be condemned for his actions after returning him from the Vietnam War. Finally, as Aaron Blake notes, Webb is not exactly the most charismatic person on the planet, and while this is arguably not something that should matter when picking a President, it does matter and it’s not something that is easily fixed.

So, Webb may be thinking about running for President, but at this point it’s hard to see how he’d be a serious challenger to Hillary Clinton.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Webb isn’t a particularly good politician and he clearly doesn’t enjoy the kind of campaigning that someone running for President would need to do on a daily basis if their candidacy is going to go anywhere at all.

    IIRC he was even worse at fund raising. My first thought on reading his statements was, “Yeah, that’ll work well.”

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I think he’s running for Veep. Hillary’s Veep.

  3. JWH says:

    I see him as a good candidate for Cabinet (maybe Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense) or veep.

  4. Rick Almeida says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I heard him in an interview with Diane Rehm this past summer, and for whatever it’s worth, he emphatically stated several times that he did not want to be VP and would be a poor choice for the role.

  5. Tony W says:

    @Rick Almeida: I think that quote sound-bites a bit better than “I’m running for President, but VP would be good too, you know if I don’t get the big chair…”

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Clinton/Webb ’16

    I predict a landslide.
    Ron who?

  7. Rick Almeida says:

    @Tony W:

    You’re right, of course, but he was very emphatic and quite convincing.

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    Outside the South Webb really has no place in the Democratic Party. He might make a good ticket balancing VP but I don’t think Hillary Clinton will need that. In addition he would be little more than a door stop in a Clinton administration, a position a doubt he is interested in.

  9. Dave says:

    @michael reynolds: Maybe, but I think Webb is self aware enough to realize that he really wouldn’t be a good veep; he has strong opinions and voices them. I think he also knows Hillary would not want him on the ticket unless there was no other possible choice. Given all that, I suspect he really just wants to stir the pot a bit. Yes, there may be a bit of simple self promotion involved, but Webb strikes me as the sort who really does want to get certain policy questions aired publicly. I hope he does campaign, regardless of his motives it would be better for the country than a coronation parade.

  10. Ron,

    If Clinton is looking for someone from the South to balance the ticket, Mark Warner would be a better choice than Jim Webb.

  11. Scott says:

    @Beauty Labs Review: We are awesome, aren’t we?

  12. Just Me says:

    I like him better than Hillary but think he may be over his head with Hillary’s campaign team (although I don’t find her to always he smooth with the media her spokespeople often are).

    *Doug-just a note but you have then/than mixed up in your post. If you care you might want to edit if you don’t oh well.

  13. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: If Hillary’s living in Arkansas for 20 years and being the first lady of that state still leaves her needing “balance” from the South, then I don’t think putting Lester Maddux on the ticket as her VP is going to help…

  14. Okay, either Webb, or one of his sycophants, has been smoking crack.

    A guy who’s older than Clinton is going to run for President? A guy that was so lacking in energy didn’t want to run for reelection as Senator is going to run for President?


  15. Pinky says:

    @Doug Mataconis: As I’ve said before, I don’t understand the press’s inordinate focus on Virginians for president or veep.

  16. Moosebreath says:


    “As I’ve said before, I don’t understand the press’s inordinate focus on Virginians for president or veep.”

    It’s a purple state, and in many minds it’s a different region than the Northeast, so it brings a veneer of regional balance. And on the other hand, it’s just outside DC, so the national press is more familiar with Virginia politicians than those of Colorado, North Carolina or Florida (to name 3 states which are both purple and not in the Northeast).

  17. JohnMcC says:

    Mr Webb has written that the ‘Scotch-Irish’ come from a warrior culture that still governs their (our) behavior; he says they (we) ‘would rather die in place than retreat’.

    From his own hands comes the best reason to not vote for him (or me).

  18. edmondo says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Clinton/Webb ’16

    Hooray !!!!!!!!!! W’s fifth term is just a few votes away.

  19. edmondo says:

    If Clinton is looking for someone from the South to balance the ticket, Mark Warner would be a better choice than Jim Webb.

    If she’s looking for someone from the South, why not pick NASCAR’s Tony Stewart? He’s only killed one guy while on duty. Our Peace Prize-winning president beats him by the thousands.

  20. Just Me says:

    I think Virginia’s proximity to DC is probably the main reason they like to focus on Virginian candidates.

    Virginia is likely the home of many reporters who are also more familiar with the local area politicians verses some from other regions of the country.

  21. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    i can’t see him as either Pres. or Veep, and I, too, don’t quite follow why someone who didn’t want to run for Senator a second time thinks running for President will be different. That said. it seems that maybe he’s trying, for whatever reason, to get in a shot on Obama’s foreign policy. And if that is the case, he’s not doing himself a service as a serious thinker. For my take, Obama’s Middle East problem is not as much a case of not having clear foreign policy as it is a result of the guys before you wading into a briar patch combined with the firm belief that law of averages dictates that the wish hand will fill up before the spit hand eventually. (If you wish in one hand and spit in the other…)

  22. Sherparick says:

    Maybe I missed it, but besides criticizing the Administration’s foreign policy for “vagueness,” did Senator Webb articulate what his foreign policy would be? Actually, President Obama’s foreign policy was rather clear initially. It was to disengage us from the land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and focus on Asia where he believe U.S. economic and security interests had been neglected under Bush/Cheney. And then of course, as Harold Macmillian said, “events, my boy, events” from the Euro crisis to Russia and Ukraine, to the Arab Spring and subsequent civil wars, intervened, as they always do.

    By the way, from the beginning, right or wrong, one thing President Obama has been consistent on is using the tool of American air power and technological superiority to kill those he perceived as terrorist and quasi-military threats to the country. He has waged war pretty relentlessly, while talking softly about it. Perhaps because he has talked softly, he does not get much credit (although the left has focused much blame – Glenn Greenwald, Tom Junod, and Tom Englehardt, for instance) on the morally and legally troubling aspects of this war making by bombs and drones. The Conservative Movement and Republican Party is not going to give him any credit because the President , his party, and the liberals are “the Enemy,” much more than any foreigner, and they shall not rest until the “Liberal enemy”, shares the fate of Carthage: “Carthago delenda est.” (I have always considered Cato the Elder as great historical example of the “Reactionary Mind” and its blood thirstiness )

  23. Cargosquid says:


    “he says they (we) ‘would rather die in place than retreat’. ”

    And yet….he quit when SecNav.