Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia said Thursday his two favorite 20th century U.S. presidents were Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.
“I’m going to have to say two…I don’t know what party you’re in, but this is one on either side,” Mr. Webb, a candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said during a question-and-answer session at the Iowa State Fair.
He first mentioned Mr. Roosevelt, recounting his mother’s tough upbringing and how his grandmother found work through “one of the Roosevelt programs.”
“The other favorite is Ronald Reagan — I served in the Reagan administration,” said Mr. Webb, who served as secretary of the Navy under Mr. Reagan. “And I will tell you, the Reagan administration did a terrific job whether you agreed politically with them or not of putting strong people into the administration, giving them guidance and having them step [forward] and lead.
“In a Webb administration, we will do that — we will bring the greatest minds in America to the table, give them direction as to where we want this country to go and have them lead,” he said, speaking at the Des Moines Register’s political “soapbox” at the fair.
Speaking about Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Webb said his mother grew up in “utter poverty” in Arkansas.
“She was one of eight children, three of whom died in childhood — not childbirth, childhood,” he said.
Her father died when she was 10 years old, said Mr. Webb, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran.
“Franklin Roosevelt stepped forward, put programs into place, created the TVA, put work out there — my grandmother could not work,” he said. “There was nothing out there in this rural area after my grandfather died, but she finally got a job through one of the Roosevelt programs.”
He also said back when Social Security was created people were saying it was a “socialist” program, but that he doubted there was anyone out there who wanted to see their government checks stopped.
“I like mine,” he said.
Mr. Webb has been struggling to gain traction in early polling on the Democratic presidential field, but painted himself as a problem solver with proven results, such as a post-9/11 GI Bill and work on criminal justice reform when he was in the U.S. Senate from 2007-2013.
“The one thing I can guarantee you, if you look at the record that I have put on the table over many years in government and out of government is that I can take complex problems, work with people from across the philosophical spectrum, and actually get things done,” he said.