Via the Examiner, reader interest in this is, I’d guess, 1/1,000th what it is in Ben Carson’s nascent presidential run even though Webb’s more likely –slightly — than Carson to shake up the race. Carson’s impact, if he ends up having any, will be to help Republican centrists in the field in Iowa and New Hampshire by siphoning off social con votes from more formidable righties like Ted Cruz. Webb could potentially mount a legitimately interesting third-party candidacy against Hillary and a Republican to be named later; he’s got exactly the sort of populist cred that you’d want in an indie, especially one running against a Clinton and a Bush. What he doesn’t have is a billion dollars, which I guess is why he sounds resigned in the clip to running as a Democrat. If he’s destined to be an also-ran, he might as well set up a binary “Hillary or me” choice early on that’ll grab media attention than settle for a quixotic, poorly funded independent run against the two nominees that ends up barely being noticed by low-information voters. It’s a question of incentives, I think: During the primaries, lefties have lots of incentive to fawn over a “Not Hillary” alternative. During the general, they have lots of incentive to ignore Webb lest he end up playing Nader to her Gore.
I wrote about a Webb run a few months ago, incidentally. We knew at the time that he was going to position himself as a Warren-esque economic populist; you can see some of that at the very end here in what he says about “fairness.” Hillary will run as a populist too, of course, but no one takes her seriously, least of all the Warren fans on the left who are thirsting for someone to challenge her. What we didn’t know when I wrote that post was how Webb would shake out on foreign policy. He got elected to the Senate eight years ago as a war hero turned Iraq war critic. Logically, if he’s aiming to draw a left-friendly contrast with Hillary in the primaries, he should run as a loud and proud war critic this time too. I didn’t see his speech today but Robert Costa did, and … yep:
Big moment here at Nat'l Press Club: Jim Webb delivers fiery anti-war speech, say he's "seriously" considering 2016 bid
— Robert Costa (@costareports) September 23, 2014
“Fiery.” Just what leftists want to hear! Except … he also supports gun rights, and his personal narrative of senator, Navy secretary, decorated veteran, and esteemed author is no match for the First! Woman! President! fee-vah that’ll have Democrats lining up behind Hillary. He’s tailor-made for white conservative southern Democratic voters; the problem is, those people don’t exist anymore. Oh well. At least we’ll have an exciting few months of blogging in the run-up to the Dem caucuses in Iowa late next year. Exit question: Webb/Warren 2016?