Sh-h-h-h! Don’t tell anybody, but Jim Webb is running for president

jim-webbJim Webb is taking a different route to rolling out his presidential campaign. With so many candidates jumping into the race via the campaign rally with dozens of supporters waving flags and placards, and earning wall-to-wall TV coverage for the trouble of getting all that together, Webb took the road less-traveled.

“After many months of thought, deliberation and discussion, I have decided to seek the office of the Presidency of the United States,” Webb announced via a post on his campaign website that was also sent out to supporters and the news media on Thursday.

The day before a long holiday weekend. Which is when you tend to try to bury bad news, because who’s paying attention to the news with the Fourth of July on the horizon?

It’s almost as if Webb didn’t want to draw media attention to his campaign, which fits with his style. I covered Webb’s 2006 run for the U.S. Senate seat then held by Republican George Allen, who never met a camera or reporter’s notebook that he didn’t like. Allen was then being talked about as a top contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. His campaign was being followed by the national media even before the “macaca” episode started to bring him down.

Webb, on his side of that Senate race, looked like he would have preferred to be anywhere other than in the middle of a political campaign, often allowing himself to be upstaged by his surrogates on the stump.

Then he won in a huge upset, and was a solid senator for six years, before deciding in the walk-up to a 2012 re-election campaign that he’d had enough, thank you, and stepped aside.

That Webb started to signal last year that he was thinking about running for president in 2016 made little sense in the context of how the past decade has played out for him. And how he conducted his exploratory campaign made even less sense.

Has anyone running on either side of the aisle done less to draw attention than Webb? The Webb campaign, such as it is, is reminiscent of the front porch campaigns of William McKinley. Sure, he’s making appearances in the early nomination-contest states, but Webb hasn’t been just under the radar; he’s the 2016 race’s Stealth bomber, unilaterally unarmed.

Decrying the role that money plays in modern politics, Webb said in his announcement today that “our country needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us.”

“We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process,” Webb said. “Our elected officials need to get back to the basics of good governance and to remember that their principal obligations are to protect our national interests abroad and to ensure a level playing field here at home, especially for those who otherwise have no voice in the corridors of power. And at the same time our fellow Americans need proven, experienced leadership that can be trusted to move us forward from a new President’s first days in office. I believe I can offer both.”

Nobody who has followed Webb closely since his Senate days doubts that Webb is sincere in his assessment both of the current political climate and the role he could play in getting things turned around in the right direction.

It’s just as hard to imagine Webb being able to play any kind of meaningful role in the 2016 nomination season if he plays it the way he seems to prefer.

– Column by Chris Graham


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