The former Democratic Senator from Virginia has officially announced he’s running for president, Democrats should applaud.
The big news on the 2016 presidential race front this week has to be former Democratic Senator from Virginia Jim Webb’s decision to officially throw this hat in the ring. And yes, that’s what he’s doing. Saying, “I have decided to launch an exploratory committee to examine whether I should run for president in 2016.” Is presidentialese for, “I am running for President.” And while he didn’t officially say he’s challenging Hillary for the Democratic nomination in our current era of strong parties and intense polarization that’s what he’s almost certainly doing.
So does Webb have a good chance at beating Hillary? Probably not, he was always a pretty moderate Democratic when he was in the Senate, which makes sense because he represented purple Virginia. But if you want to win the Democratic nomination you have to win over Democratic voters and Democratic aligned interest groups, which will be pretty hard for Webb to do. But then again since Hillary has been dominating so called “invisible primary” stage of the race for 2016 so far, he (and everyone else) was always a long-shot.
The irony here is that Webb’s entrance into the race will probably make Hillary stake out more liberal positions. One of the biggest problems the Hillary juggernaut posed for liberals and other Democratically aligned groups was that she could win the nomination without ever having to publicly promise to support liberal policy goals. In other words with no opponent Hillary could promise to “balance security and privacy” when it comes to civil liberties issues like NSA snooping. But if Webb lays out an ambitious plan to overhaul domestic intelligence gathering Hillary will have to take a stand as well. Combine this with the fact that former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Democratically aligned Independent Senator Bernie Sanders are also appear to be running and we could be in for a far more lively 2016 cycle than it appeared a year ago.
This isn’t to say that Webb will be on the ballot next year. He could find that there really is no support out there in terms of staff, money, and endorsements and drop out before the Iowa Caucuses. But the fact that Hillary has a challenger means that every candidate will have to work that much harder to win support. Which means the priorities of Democratic voters and groups will be that much more likely to get addressed if she wins. Democrats and liberals should applaud.
Republicans of course can feel free to boo.
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Photo by Steve Helber/AP