WASHINGTON (AP) – Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb said Tuesday he is dropping out of the Democratic race for president and is considering his options about how he might “remain as a voice” in the campaign.
Webb said at a news conference that he is “withdrawing from any consideration” of becoming the Democratic party’s nominee and would spend the coming weeks exploring his options about a possible independent bid.
“The very nature of our democracy is under siege due to the power structure and the money that finances both political parties,” Webb said, joined by his wife, Hong Le Webb. “Our political candidates are being pulled to the extremes. They’re increasingly out of step with the people they’re supposed to serve.”
Webb said many of the issues that he cares about are not in line with the hierarchy of the Democratic party, saying he did not have a “clear, exact fit” in either party. Asked if he still considers himself a Democrat, Webb said, “We’ll think about that.”
If Webb chose to run as an independent, he would face long odds in raising enough money and building a strong enough organization outside of the two-party system to get on the ballot in 50 states. Outsider candidates have struggled to amass broad support in the past: Ross Perot got 19 percent of the vote in 1992 and 8 percent in 1996. Ralph Nader got 3 percent of the vote as a Green Party candidate in 2000 but garnered enough liberal support in Florida to prevent Democrat Al Gore from carrying the state and winning the presidency.
A Vietnam veteran and former member of President Ronald Reagan’s administration, Webb complained that he did not get the chance to make his views fully known at the first Democratic debate.
He has trailed badly in the field that includes former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Webb has been polling in the back of the pack with former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.
Webb has raised only about $700,000 and ended the month of September with more than $300,000 in the bank.
Webb surprised many fellow Democrats when he became the first major figure in the party to form a presidential exploratory committee last November.
Webb, 69, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, has promoted criminal justice reform and an overhaul of the campaign finance system and has been critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. He has urged Democrats to appeal to working-class Americans and white voters in the South who have left the Democratic party in recent elections.
Webb was a Navy secretary under Reagan and an author who became a Democrat in response to the Iraq war, which he opposed.
Webb’s opposition to the war, in which his son Jimmy served, was critical to his surprise Senate election in 2006 against Republican Sen. George Allen.
In the Senate, Webb focused on foreign affairs and veterans issues and was the driving force behind a GI Bill for post-9/11 veterans seeking to attend college after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. He announced he would not seek re-election in 2012 and returned to writing.