Jim Webb announces 2016 Democratic presidential bid

Posted at 2:33 PM, Jul 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-02 20:21:53-04

Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb announced Thursday that “after many months of thought, deliberation and discussion” he has decided to run for president of the United States.

In an over 2,000-word blog post, Webb writes that he decided to run because the United States needs “proven, experienced leadership that can be trusted to move us forward from a new President’s first days in office.”

Highlighting his experience as a senator, decorated soldier and and secretary of the navy under Ronald Reagan, Webb cast himself as someone willing to fight on issues he cares about, including criminal justice reform, education and economic fairness.

Webb becomes the fifth Democrat to join the primary contest. Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady, is the race’s frontrunner, with every poll showing her up by wide margins. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is experiencing a recent jump in the polls and in excitement, while former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee have stagnated since announcing they would run.

Webb will forgo to standard post announcement travel to early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. His spokesman told CNN Thursday that despite announcing his presidential bid, Webb plans to spend the Fourth of July weekend with his family.

Webb subtly hit Clinton in his announcement post.

“I understand the odds, particularly in today’s political climate where fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money,” Webb wrote. “I know that more than one candidate in this process intends to raise at least a billion dollars — some estimates run as high as two billion dollars — in direct and indirect financial support.”

Election experts believe Clinton’s campaign, including outside super PACs, could spend upwards of $2 billion in 2016. Clinton’s top aides vociferously deny this.

Webb also wrote that the country needs “a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us” – something that could be a subtle knock against Clinton, who has been on the scene for decades.

“We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process,” Webb wrote. “Our elected officials need to get back to the basics of good governance and to remember that their principal obligations are to protect our national interests abroad and to ensure a level playing field here at home, especially for those who otherwise have no voice in the corridors of power.”

Webb’s announcement date has long been a moving target. The senator appeared at a Democratic event in Clinton, Iowa last week, and aides quietly told reporters that they should attend the event, hinting that the senator planned to announce his run.

Webb and his team had, in fact, planned on announcing his campaign at the event, but backed off the plan when the Clinton campaign convinced the county’s Democratic party to allow Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar to speak on the former first lady’s behalf.

Webb is known for keeping a very tight inner circle, one that sometimes doesn’t include his own staff. Aides have said his closet adviser is his wife, Hong Le Webb.

Webb enters the race considerably behind and seemingly at a disadvantage with where the Democratic electorate is moving.

Most polls show the former senator in the low single digits. In a CNN/ORC poll conducted in late June, Webb garnered 2% support nationally.

What’s more, Webb is a conservative Democrat who finds himself in a party that has moved further left in recent years. Webb’s differences with the current iteration of the Democratic Party was in full display last month when the former senator issued a statement on the Confederate flag as something that is “wrongly” used as a racist symbol.

“We all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War,” Webb wrote. “The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades. It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.”

Webb announced he would form an exploratory committee earlier this year, after which sporadically traveled to early states and did a few media interviews. Unlike other campaigns, most of his campaign communication appeared on Twitter – where Webb posted his eventual presidential announcement.

After announcing he would run, Webb’s staff posted his first fundraising pitch to Twitter.