After the last debate, I said of Jim Webb, “He’s the most likely candidate to drop out first.” Then, just this morning, I passed along that he was holding a press conference at 1:00 and rumor had it that he was dropping out.
And that’s exactly what happened. Citing being out of step with the modern Democratic Party (“Hierarchy is not comfortable with many of the policies that I have laid forth, and frankly I am not that comfortable with many of theirs.”), Jim Webb has withdrawn from the Democratic Primary.
Now, before you shower me with praise, I must admit that I once thought Webb was a more promising candidate. I never gave any of the Democratic candidates much of a chance to beat Hillary Clinton, but I thought that by being the only non-liberal candidate, he was the one who had the best chance of uniting moderate Democrats and finishing in second. Thanks to the debate, however, it was clear that Webb had little chance at winning support in the modern, very progressive Democratic Party. It didn’t help that he was, quite annoyingly, more obsessed with time than Doctor Who.
It’s rumored he might make an Independent run, though he hasn’t been that direct: “How I remain as a voice will depend on what kind of support I am shown in the coming days & weeks as I meet with people from all sides.” It sounds to me like he wants the two parties to fight over him or a prominent Democrat to offer him something in exchange for his support. Frankly, this posturing vastly overrates his relevance. He’s been mired between 0 and 2 in every national poll since August. His high water mark was a 5 earned right after his announcement in mid-July, and he hasn’t returned to that number since. He would make a great Secretary of Defense, but he doesn’t have to publicly threaten the party to earn the job.
It’s worth noting that an Independent bid would probably have little impact on the general. His ideas about there being a middle road between Democrats and Republicans sound good (“Americans don’t like the extremes to which both parties have moved in recent years, and I don’t blame them.”), but there just isn’t enough support or infrastructure beyond the two parties to sustain a national run unless the candidate is a billionaire. (Hmmmm…) His inability to get anything going with his own party will mean few Democrats desert for him in November. However, considering how tightly fought his home state of Virginia has been in recent elections, if he siphons as little as three or four percentage points away from the Democratic nominee in that state, its 13 electoral votes could be enough to hand the Republicans the election. If Webb does declare as an Independent, there will be scores of Virginia polls over the next year to see how he’s affecting the state’s loyalties.