It's a real testament to the fact that we're grasping desperately for non-Hillary Clinton Democratic presidential candidates when Washington starts getting a little buzzy about Jim Webb running for president.
No, that's not to take anything away from Webb's service — including as a war hero, Navy secretary under Ronald Reagan and one-term senator from Virginia. It's just that there wouldn't seem to be a more unlikely presidential hopeful than Jim Webb.
1) He retired after one term in the Senate and didn't seem to particularly enjoy being in public life. Larry Sabato said it particularly well after Webb's retirement announcement a few years back: "He has been an excellent United States senator, but he is a terrible politician. He doesn't suffer fools gladly, he doesn't enjoy glad-handing — my sense of Webb is that he’s had enough of public life for a while."
Think again, Larry!
2) Webb's niche in the race would apparently be as a more populist, dovish alternative to Hillary Clinton. That's fine, except that he was Reagan's Navy secretary and also something of a Blue Dog Democrat during his service in the Senate. Even on foreign policy, he was often toward the middle of the Senate.
Much like ex-Montana governor Brian Schweitzer (D), that's an odd profile for a guy who is supposed to be winning votes from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
3) He has negative charisma. The Fix believes that presidential races have a charisma threshold, by which we mean that candidates need to be at least somewhat compelling to a national audience to achieve viability. Tim Pawlenty (R), for instance, struggled with this. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has a similar problem.
Webb would probably make Pawlenty look like Herman Cain. He's just very dour. We wonder who would get excited about him, in the absence of some galvanizing force that suddenly makes him the perfect candidate for that political moment in time.
4) He has baggage. Yes, Webb won his 2006 bout with Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), but it wasn't pretty. And some liberals balked pretty loudly when Webb's name surfaced as a potential vice presidential pick for President Obama in 2008.
Among the hits that would resurface in a presidential campaign:
- Webb has spoken fondly of his Confederate roots and defended the Southern states' decision to secede, even citing the "Nazification of the Confederacy."
- He said in 2004 that John Kerry deserved to be condemned for his actions in opposition to the Vietnam War.
- Webb's writings and comments have been criticized by the left for being insensitive to women.
Does this sound to anyone like the profile of the guy who might defeat Hillary Clinton — or even compete with her — in 2016?