One Democrat just took the first official step towards running for president in 2016 – and it isn’t Hillary Clinton.
Former Democratic Senator Jim Webb has launched an exploratory committee to consider a 2016 run, he announced late Wednesday night. The committee gives him the ability to fundraise, spend, and organize like a presidential campaign, without officially declaring just yet.
Webb is largely an underdog candidate in the shadow of the presumed frontrunner former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but the popular former senator from Virginia has moderate, anti-war credentials that might ring true with liberals and moderates voters sick of gridlock and military operations.
“Over the past few months, thousands of concerned Americans across the political spectrum have asked me to run for president,” Webb said in a video posted to his website. “A constant theme runs through these requests. Americans want positive, visionary leadership that they can trust.”
In the video, he casts himself as an economic populist. Webb touted his varied credentials—eight years of active duty military, including deployment in Vietnam, five years at the Pentagon mostly as Assistant Secretary of Defense and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, four years working behind the scenes in Congress, and six years in Congress. His anti-interventionist views will differentiate him from Clinton, who voted for the war in Iraq while in the Senate and encouraged the Obama administration’s intervention in Libya.
But credentials aside, few Americans even know Webb’s name and few are talking about his candidacy for president: in a Washington Post/ABC News poll from June, he garnered support from only 2% of Democrats.
And if the one-term senator reminds you of another one-term senator with presidential ambitions, Webb is already differentiating himself the highly unpopular president.
“A strong majority of Americans agree that we are a serious crossroads. These challenges are only partly political; equally they involve questions of leadership. I learned long ago on the battlefields of Vietnam that in a crisis there’s no substitute for clear-eyed leadership,” he said, a nod to those who have scoffed at the president’s inability to wrangle Congress and his unpopular term.
Webb also taps into the kind of economic populism that’s skyrocketed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to liberal celebrity.
“We cannot sit idly by and accept that such economic and power divisions are permanent,” he said. “The American dream does survive … Everybody deserves that opportunity. We can get it back for all of our people and we must do so if we are who we say we are when we say we are Americans.”
At an event in September, Webb acknowledged his likely opponent, Clinton.
“I’m not here to undermine her,” Webb said. “I’m here just to explain where my concerns are as someone whose been involved in military and foreign policy all of my life.”