In a fundraising pitch as offbeat as his campaign, former Virginia senator Jim Webb is telling supporters he needs funds to fuel an “insurgent” presidential bid.
“The time is finally right for our under-financed insurgent campaign to be taken seriously, in the media, among Republicans and independents, and even in the inner circles of the Democratic Party’s power structure,” he writes. “[W]ith enough financial help to keep us in the game, the moment has come for us to break into the political mainstream and seriously compete for the Presidency.”
Webb appears to be referencing recent polls that show former secretary of state Hillary Clinton losing favor while mogul Donald Trump gains it. Both trends, he intuits, are a sign that “Americans have grown cynical and even disgusted with the current political class.”
The one-term Democratic senator, who has also served as secretary of the Navy and an assistant secretary of defense, is positioning himself as the best of both worlds: politically experienced but not a creature of Washington.
While Clinton remains very popular with Democrats, in Iowa and New Hampshire primary polls, her numbers are slipping downward. The beneficiary of that slide is not Webb, who barely registers in either state. It’s Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a socialist who has caught fire with liberals disillusioned by Clinton.
Like Webb, Sanders dislikes fundraising, spurns super PACs and is skeptical of the mainstream media. His campaign has been buoyed, however, by a grass-roots wave of the kind Webb has yet to catch.
Part of Webb’s struggle is that he cannot easily position himself to Clinton’s left. He quotes approvingly in his e-mail from an editorial by conservative Wall Street Journal writer Peggy Noonan. He’s critical of President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran.
His strongest argument in the current political climate is one he mentions only briefly in the e-mail — a long commitment to criminal justice reform. As Black Lives Matter protesters hound Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, that history could offer Webb an opening. But he also has an uneasy relationship with liberal efforts to combat racism. He has defended the Confederate flag and compared Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants to liberal criticism of “Southern white cultures.”
As he acknowledges, Webb cannot make up for a lack of spontaneous support with institutional strength. Unlike O’Malley, another candidate struggling in polls, Webb has not built up a traditional organizing infrastructure in early primary states.
He is likely gearing up for the end of this month, when he will file his first financial report of the campaign.
Webb writes that “With the right financial backing we still have time to mount a solid campaign, and to win.” Whether he is able to garner that backing will be more clear in October.
“Silly summer season is over,” Webb spokesman Craig Crawford elaborated. “[W]e’ll be on the road soon.”