The Slatest

Jim Webb Says He’s Considering a Third-Party Run

Former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) looks on during a fundraiser for Iowa House Democrats at CHOP Restaurant on April 12, 2015 in Mason City, Iowa.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Jim Webb has found a way to steal a bit of the campaign spotlight without having to casually talk about the time he killed someone in Vietnam. The former Virginia senator and current long-shot Democratic hopeful announced Monday that he is considering a third-party run.

Webb is set to hold a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to discuss what his campaign says is “his candidacy, the campaign, and his views of the political parties in the current election cycle.” In case the message wasn’t clear, that statement came in an email accompanied with the subject line: “Jim Webb To Consider Independent Run.”

In grand scheme of things, this is hardly a game changer. Webb is currently sitting at 1.2 percent in the RealClearPolitics running average of national polls, and he looked painfully out of place on the debate stage last week as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley touted their progressive bona fides. Webb wondering aloud about mounting an independent campaign, then, won’t create nearly as much handwringing at the Democratic Party’s HQ as Donald Trump’s third-party threat did this summer for the Republican Party. 

Even if Webb does strike out on his own—far from a guarantee—he’d need to find the resources to get himself on the ballot for the general election, which is neither cheap nor easy for those candidates without the backing of a major party. And to date, the only thing less impressive than Webb’s polling performance has been his fundraising prowess: He reported raising less than $700,000 in his last fundraising quarter, and had less than half of that on hand entering the month. Looking even further ahead, even if he were to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states, its unclear exactly who he’d be stealing votes from: He served as Ronald Reagan’s secretary of the Navy and he’s well to the right of his fellow Democratic rivals on most issues. Toss in his unapologetic attempts to win over working class whites, and it’s possible that he’d appeal to roughly the same number of would-be Republican voters as he does would-be Democratic ones.

In the short-term, though, if this is a stunt, it’s a clever one. During last week’s Democratic debate, Webb spent most of his limited speaking time complaining about his limited speaking time. He’ll have no such problems during his Tuesday press conference. Better yet, the DC press corps will finally be paying attention—if only briefly.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the 2016 campaign.