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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Jim Webb takes step toward independent presidential campaign

Jim Webb has hired a fundraiser to help him launch a possible independent bid for the presidency.

Sam Jones, who previously led fundraising efforts for a super PAC encouraging Vice President Joe Biden to run for president, will now help the former Democratic senator from Virginia decide whether he can afford a campaign.

“After weeks of study, including consultations with ballot experts and independent activists across the country, we have a handle on what it takes to give voters in every state a real choice,” Webb spokesman Craig Crawford said in a statement. Jones, he said, would help with the next step: “How to pay for it.”

Jones called Webb “a bold and honest leader . . . who stands miles apart from the bitter theatrics we see before us today.”

Webb dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary in October, saying he no longer felt comfortable running as a Democrat. His departure came after an underwhelming performance at the first Democratic debate, where he was challenged for being out of step with the Democratic base on affirmative action and gun control. Since then, he has been quietly gauging support for an independent bid.

A Vietnam War veteran who served as President Ronald Reagan’s Navy secretary, Webb hopes to capitalize on an appeal that does not fall neatly into party lines. He has defended the Confederate flag and unions; he criticizes executive pay and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The extremes that have taken over the nominating process have become glaringly obvious,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in October. “An independent president who can bring a broad spectrum of talent into a completely new administration would be best equipped to face the hard choices and to put our government back on track again.”

But running as an independent presents immense challenges, especially for a candidate ambivalent about the slog of the presidential campaign trail. Significant third-party campaigns in the past have been launched by personally wealthy self-financers like Ross Perot, famous political figures like Theodore Roosevelt or representatives of major constituencies like George Wallace.

Webb has none of those advantages. While running as a Democrat, he never garnered much support in the national surveys. However, polling suggests he could have a significant effect on the race in his home state of Virginia, taking between 13 and 19 percent of the vote from the two major candidates.

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