Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, exploring a possible 2016 presidential campaign, said he is in the process of deciding whether he can “put together the type of money” needed and still remain independent of special interests.
Mr. Webb, a Democrat, said his chief political dilemma is building a realistic campaign without becoming beholden to donors in an era where the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has allowed individual donors to give millions to support campaigns.
Appearing on Washington Journal on C-Span, Mr. Webb said nowadays, “someone can write an individual check for $26 million” and a candidate such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush can seek to raise $100 million within three months. Against that backdrop, the former Virginia senator said he is evaluating whether a campaign will be possible for him.
Mr. Webb, who formed an exploratory committee in November, will be a speaker at a state event in Iowa in April, a potential forum for him to make the case that he is a viable alternative to Hillary Clinton for the party’s nomination.
Mr. Webb, who served in the Senate from 2007 to 2013, cast his possible campaign as one that would be aimed at leveling the economic playing field between millions of Americans with flat or declining salaries, and the very wealthy amassing “money that’s being made on passive income” such as stock dividends and capital gains. Acknowledging that he himself makes money on stocks, he voiced the concern that “people are getting separated” and actually getting further apart financially.
A onetime combat Marine in Vietnam and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Mr. Webb repeated his concerns about how President Barack Obama has used military force. Addressing the recent history in Libya, he said the “real story on Libya is, when can a president unilaterally use military force” if no treaties compel the U.S. to do so?
“The doctrine of when we use military force has become very vague,” he said.
“It’s impossible to overstate how difficult it will be for a non-Hillary Clinton candidate to gain traction, donor money and endorsements the later we get in the cycle and the more her nomination feels like a fait accompli,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer. “But to the extent there’s room in the Democratic primary, it’s to the left of Clinton not a space Webb naturally occupies.”
“And the rationale he’s identified for his candidacy, the need for the Democratic Party to fix its problem with white working class people, isn’t as much of an issue with Clinton or Elizabeth Warren, who tend to resonate with those audiences, much more so than Obama ever did,” Ms. Setzer said. “If Webb can gain any traction, he’ll need to carve out space on an issue Clinton’s not talking about or can’t talk about.”