It was perhaps the largest audience Jim Webb had drawn during his 15-week campaign for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. A whole room packed with people—a few dozen of them—there just to see him.
The lectern Webb and his wife, Hong, stood behind was stamped with his campaign logo: JimWebb’16 Leadership You Can Trust. The wall behind them, too, was plastered with three signs: JimWebb’16 Leadership You Can Trust. JimWebb’16 Leadership You Can Trust. JimWebb’16 Leadership You Can Trust.
But this wasn’t a campaign rally. It was a funeral for a campaign. And the people surrounding Webb weren’t there to offer support or pay their respects. They were reporters.
“I am withdrawing from any consideration of being the Democratic Party’s nominee for the presidency,” Webb said. “I am not going away. I am thinking through all of my options.”
Webb expressed deep frustration with the Democratic Party and complained that building out his own operation was too difficult given the “dominance” of Hillary Clinton. The debate held last week, during which Webb repeatedly griped that he wasn’t being given a fair amount of time to express his views, was “rigged,” he said.
“I fully accept that my views on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and base of the Democratic Party,” he said.
Webb has only been a Democrat since 2006. During the Reagan administration, when he was a Republican, he served as secretary of the Navy. He’s a gun evangelist who has advocated for offshore drilling, coal, and the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Most people who have heard of him—which is not that many people—may only be vaguely aware that he once killed a guy during combat, something he brings up often.
“Some people say I’m a Republican who became a Democrat, but that I often sound like a Republican in a room full of Democrats or a Democrat in a room full of Republicans,” Webb said Tuesday. “Actually I take that as a compliment.”
Webb stopped short of announcing that he planned to run as an independent, smiling knowingly at one point as he said, “I know the histories of independent candidacies.”
But he later added that he has “no doubt if I ran as an independent, we would have significant financial help” and he could even beat Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
A former one-term senator from Virginia, Webb had announced that he would seek the nomination on July 2, in a 2,000-word blog item on his website.
With his announcement came little signs of life from his campaign, which reportedly had about a dozen staffers.
He spent 18 days in Iowa, attending 29 events (only Lincoln Chafee, another candidate who might as well be wearing an invisibility cloak, has been there less, according to the Des Moines Register. New Hampshire got even less love—Webb traveled there once, according to WMUR.
He never exceeded 2.6 percent in the polls—though that dismal number still places him ahead of Martin O’Malley and Chafee.
And only $691,972 found its way into his campaign coffers.
“We were working every day,” Webb said on Tuesday. “Campaigning—there were times when we did and times when we did not.”
“We had a very small staff, I’m not going to tell you that we didn’t,” he said. “We had challenges creating an organization inside a Democratic Party where the expected nominee had a lot of control, a lot of leeway. That was then and I’m talking about the future now.”