- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2014

Former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb became the first major Democratic candidate to signal officially an intent to run for president in 2016, forming an exploratory committee and vowing to provide positive leadership for the country.

Mr. Webb, who served as a senator from Virginia for one term before giving up his seat in 2012, released a 14-minute video late night Wednesday announcing his move and acknowledging his uphill climb. But as former secretary of the Navy under President Reagan and then a Democratic senator, he said he is not a “career politician.”

“In politics, nobody owns me, and I don’t owe anybody anything, except for the promise that I will work for the well-being of all Americans and especially those who otherwise would have no voice in the corridors of power,” Mr. Webb said.

 

Mr. Webb’s entry could force other Democrats — and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in particular — to outline their agenda in greater detail, particularly on foreign policy and Iraq, said former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

“But for the Iraq war, Hillary would probably be in the White House,” said Mr. Wilder, the country’s first elected black governor. “Because that was what gave Obama his shot.”

In his video, Mr. Webb staked out a populist stance, saying his adopted party has lost its appeal for voters ranging from the working-class, largely white population in Appalachia, home of his Scots-Irish ancestors, and blacks in the inner cities.

“The Democratic Party used to be the place where people like these could come not for a handout but for an honest, respectable handshake, good full-time jobs, quality education, health care they could afford and the vital, overriding reassurance that we are all in this together, and that the system is not rigged in favor of one group of people and against another,” he said. “We can get there again. The American dream does survive.”

Mr. Webb has spurred both parties with his criticism. He voted for Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul but said the way it was passed cost the president credibility as a leader, and he has also criticized Mr. Obama’s use of executive power, particularly on overseas military intervention and the decision to intervene in Libya in 2011.

Speaking to Iowa Public Television earlier this year, he joked that a critique of Mrs. Clinton’s record at the State Department would “probably take up the whole show.”

But it remains to be seen whether there is enough room for Mr. Webb in the potential 2016 field. Liberal groups are trying to recruit Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, an independent and avowed socialist, to enter the race.

The liberal group Democracy for America released a poll Thursday showing Mrs. Warren was the top choice of its members, followed by Mr. Sanders and then Mrs. Clinton.

Nevertheless, Mr. Wilder said he doesn’t see anyone seriously tripping up Mrs. Clinton at this point if she runs. But he also said that in the wake of the Democratic Party’s losses in the 2014 elections, would-be presidential candidates need to have a more definitive message about what they stand for going forward.

“What do you bring to the table? What do you bring to the feast?” he said. “What are you going to put on the table other than your elbow?”

 


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