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POLITICS: Campaigns

Jim Webb for president? Not as a Democrat

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Virginia,2016 Elections,Campaigns,Navy,Charles Hoskinson

There's lots of chatter over the fact that Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat Jim Webb indicated Monday he's considering running for president in 2016.

"My wife and I are just thinking about what to do next. I care a lot about where the country is and we'll be sorting that out," he said during his appearance on NPR's Diane Rehm Show. "It takes me a while to decide things, and, and I'm not going to say one way or the other."

Webb, a centrist who served as President Ronald Reagan's Navy secretary and was later elected to the Senate as a Democrat from Virginia, didn't say which party's nomination he might seek in his surprise announcement.

Here's why that's a big deal: Though Webb was most recently a Democrat, he's not even close to being in lockstep with the special interests that control the party at the national level, and it's hard to see him making it through the nominating process without selling his soul — something he's been reluctant to do up to this point.

That doesn't mean he won't run as a Democrat. But running as a Republican would also be problematic.

Putting aside the possibility of being branded as a turncoat who handed control of the Senate over to Democrats at a crucial time in the George W. Bush presidency, Webb has an even bigger problem with GOP voters: He voted for Obamacare, though he later said he regretted it.

He could be a credible independent candidate, though. Remember: This is a guy who walked away from the Senate after a single term because he didn't want to be a lifelong politician.

A Naval Academy graduate and Vietnam combat veteran, Webb's most recent party switch in 2006 was motivated in a large part by his opposition to the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq war. But as a senator, he was also one of the most vocal critics of President Obama's decision to go to war in Libya without consulting Congress. Polls indicate that the national mood is shifting more in the direction of his views.

Webb also pushed hard in the Senate for federal sentencing reform, especially in drug cases -- a cause that many Republican politicians have embraced, most notably Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a potential 2016 candidate.

And his economic populism and disdain for politics-as-usual could resonate with people who feel left out of the system right now, both in the Tea Party and also among the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

For now, Webb is relishing his reputation as being relatively nonpartisan in a highly partisan time. "We have to set aside false political positions that have been taking place in our country and come together and solve problems." he told guest host Susan Page.

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