Former senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary in October, has hired a fundraiser to help him launch a possible independent bid for the presidency.
Sam Jones, who led fundraising efforts for a super PAC encouraging Vice President Biden to run for president, will help Webb 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.”
When Webb bowed out of the primary last year, he said 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 opinion piece 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 wealthy self-financers such as Ross Perot, famous political figures such as Theodore Roosevelt or representatives of major constituencies such as George Wallace. When he left the Democratic race, Webb had just $317,000 left in his campaign fund. Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who quit the 2012 Republican primary to run as a Libertarian, told The Post last fall that an independent could expect to burn through $8 million just to establish campaigns and ballot access in all 50 states.
“I don’t know if he ever had a base,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said when Webb ended his Democratic bid. “Elizabeth Warren — she has a base. [Bernie] Sanders has a base. I’m not sure Jim Webb really had that.”