Jim Webb drops Democratic presidential bid, considering independent run

Former Sen. Jim Webb announced Tuesday that he will drop his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. But the Virginia Democrat left open the possibility of an independent candidacy.

In a press conference at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Webb, said he "fully accepts that my views are not accepted by the power structure of the Democratic party," a none-too-subtle repeat of his frequent charge that the party is dominated by a left-wing elite out of touch with working Americans.

"It's time for a new declaration of independence from a political system that does not represent the vast majority of the American people," the decorated Marine veteran and bestselling author told reporters. 

Webb said he "needs to think about" whether he still considers himself a Democrat. Webb sat for one term in the Senate as a Democrat from Virginia. But he also served in the Reagan administration as secretary of the Navy, and his decision not to seek re-election in 2012 followed a long period of strained relations with President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats. 

"My intention is to remain fully engaged," Webb said, addressing speculation that he might run as an independent.

"I'm thinking about all my options," he said, adding that his decision "depends on what kind of support I receive."

He said he will take the next "couple of weeks" to talk to people, including some he says he "couldn't talk to as a Democrat."

In his early afternoon announcement, Webb criticized the Democratic Party structure and the campaign finance system, which he believes tilted the nomination process in favor of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

"We need to be honest," Webb said. "Our democracy is under siege. Candidates are being pulled to extremes. Americans don't like the extremes to which parties have moved over the years, and neither do I."

Webb's campaign gained little traction among Democratic primary voters, and he struggled to raise money.

In the first Democratic presidential candidate debate last week, Webb complained that he was denied sufficient time to speak, and later charged that the debate was rigged to favor his major opponents, Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Webb came under harsh criticism from some Democrats for his response to a question from debate moderator Anderson Cooper, who asked the candidates to name an enemy of whom they are most proud.  Webb, who was awarded the Navy Cross for bravery during the Vietnam War, replied it was the “enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me, but he’s not around right now to talk to.”

His son, Jim R. Webb, who, like his father, is a Marine Corps veteran, wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post defending his father's response. "I can’t help but imagine what these same people must think about the service of my own generation," the younger Webb wrote. "In their eyes, did we simply spend some kind of twisted ‘semester abroad’ in a place with plenty of sand, but no ocean?"

Should Sen. Webb decide to mount an independent presidential candidacy, he faces a number of obstacles in gaining ballot access in all 50 states.

Richard Winger, editor of "Ballot Access News," told AMI Newswire that, while the challenges are great, they are not insurmountable. "Independent expenditures could be made by various individuals to help Webb get on state ballots,"he said. And Webb might even get help from unexpected sources.

Winger observed that, "in 2004, Ralph Nader got help from the Michigan GOP, who, without telling him, paid for a petition drive that put him on the ballot as an independent. Nader isn't a rich man, but even he managed to get on the ballot in 45 states when he ran again in 2008."

Webb expressed confidence that he will receive significant financial support if he makes an independent run.

Winger pointed to Peter Ackerman, managing director of Rockport Capital and chairman of the advocacy group Americans Elect, as a potential supporter. "Ackerman may find a Webb candidacy irresistible," said Winger.

In 2012, Americans Elect attempted to stage a national, online primary to nominate a presidential candidate chosen outside the normal party process. It obtained ballot status in a number of states, but was unable to select a nominee.

"Webb could be a bit like John Anderson in 1980," Winger said. "Anderson was thought to be a spoiler, but Ronald Reagan won a majority of the vote. Webb may pull Republican votes - if he can get on enough ballots."

In a Public Policy Polling survey that asked New Hampshire Republicans to name a Democratic candidate they liked, Webb tied for second with  Sanders, at 23 percent.