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Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb enters 2016 Democratic race with shot at Hillary Clinton
Webb, who left the Senate in 2012, says Americans “need to shake the hold” of political elites
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
RICHMOND (CFP) — Saying the United States “needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us,” former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has announced that he will seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
“I understand the odds, particularly in today’s political climate where fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money,” Webb said in a message announcing his candidacy posted on his campaign website July 2. “Our fellow Americans need proven, experience leadership that can be trusted to move us forward.”
In his opening campaign salvo, Webb positioned himself as an outsider in the race, noting that “more than one candidate in this process intends to raise at least a billion dollars.”
“Highly paid political consultants are working to shape the ‘messaging’ of every major candidate,” he said. “We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process.”
Webb also took a direct swipe at the Democratic frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her initial support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which Webb publicly opposed.
“Let me assure you, as president, I would not have urged an invasion of Iraq,” Webb said. “I warned in writing five months before that invasion that we do not belong as an occupying power in that part of the world and that this invasion would be a strategic blunder of historic proportions.”
When she ran for president in 2008, Clinton defended her vote authorizing the use of military force in Iraq — a vote which was used against her with great effect by Barack Obama. But in a 2014 book, she conceded that her vote was a mistake.
Webb also said he would have opposed military intervention in Libya in 2011 — which Obama authorized and Clinton supported as secretary of state — and that the subsequent terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi on her watch “was inevitable.”
Webb, 69, is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who served in Vietnam and was the secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration. In 2006, he won a surprise victory to the Senate, narrowly ousting incumbent Republican George Allen in an election in which anti-war sentiment lifted Democratic fortunes.
In the Senate, Webb was considered a centrist who frequently bucked the party line, including an assertion that Obamacare would be a “disaster” for the Democratic Party. In 2012, facing the prospect of a contentious rematch with Allen, he decided not to run for re-election and left the Senate after a single term.
More recently, Webb sounded a cautionary note on the renewed drive to remove the Confederate battle emblem in the wake of the Charleston church shootings, saying in a Facebook post that “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.”
“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.”
Recent national polls have shown Webb’s support for the Democratic nomination in single digits, well behind Clinton and second-place U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
In the message launching his campaign, Webb touted his sponsorship in the Senate of a GI Bill providing benefits to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan and his support for reform of the criminal justice system.
“It’s costing us billions of dollars. It’s wasting lives, often beginning at a very early age, creating career criminals rather than curing them. It’s not making our neighborhoods safer,” he said.
Like a number of other presidential contenders in both parties, Webb also sounded a note of economic populism.
“Let’s work to restore true economic fairness in this great country, starting with finding the right formula for growing our national economy while making our tax laws more balanced and increasing the negotiating leverage of our working people,” he said. “Our goal will be to increase the financial stability of the American workforce.”
Webb also said he would “work toward bringing the complex issue of immigration reform to a solution that respects the integrity of our legal traditions, while also recognizing the practical realities of a system that has been paralyzed by partisan debate.”
Webb is the only Southerner among the five candidates seeking the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, although Clinton was a resident of Arkansas before moving to New York to run for the Senate in 2000.
Eight Southerners are seeking the Republican nomination: U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Rick Perry of Texas; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham launches campaign for president
South Carolinian stresses national security and fighting Islamic extremism in kickoff speech
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
CENTER, South Carolina (CFP) — Saying he wants America to have “security through strength,” U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham formally launched his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination by calling for stronger action against both Islamic extremism and Russian expansionism
“The next president must be an informed and decisive commander-in-chief, ready immediately to address these threats. We’ve learned over the past six years that speeches alone won’t make us safe. Superior power and resolve will,” he said.
“I am ready to be commander-in-chief on day one.”
Graham, 59, elected to his third term in the Senate last year, launched his campaign in Center, the small town in upstate South Carolina where he grew up living in back of a bar. He saluted people in his hometown who helped him climb from those humble origins to the Senate.
“I’m a man with many debts to my family, to you, to South Carolina and to the country,” Graham said. “I’m running for president to repay those debts, to fight as hard for you as you fought for me.”
Graham, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is considered something of a hawk on military and foreign policy. He has been particularly critical of one of his 2016 GOP opponents, U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has taken a less interventionist line when it comes to international relations.
In his kickoff speech, Graham reflected those views, saying that he wants to “defeat the enemies trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them but defeat them.”
“Simply put, radical Islam is running wild,” he said. “They have more safe havens, more money, more weapons and more capability to strike our homeland than any time since 9/11. They are large, rich and entrenched. As president, I will make them small, poor and on the run.”
During his years in the Senate, Graham has come under fire from conservative forces in his own party for his willingness to make deals with Democrats. When he ran for re-election in 2014, he faced a primary challenge from four Tea Party-backed foes, which he won handily.
In his opening speech, Graham promised his fellow Republicans to “be a champion for limited and effective government,” but he also told Democrats that “on the big things, we share a common fate. I’ll work with you to strengthen the country we both love.”
“You’re not my enemy. You’re my fellow countrymen,” he said.
Should Graham the White House in 2016, he would be the first unmarried man elected to the nation’s top office since Grover Cleveland in 1884.
Graham is one of eight Southern Republican who have launched or are expected to launch presidential campaigns in 2016.
In addition to Paul, those already in the race include former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. The others expected to get in include Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former governors Jeb Bush of Florida and Rick Perry of Texas.
Watch Graham’s presidential announcement:
Mike Huckabee ends Fox show to explore 2016 White House bid
Former Arkansas governor wants to “openly talk with potential donors and supporters”
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitcs.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has bowed out of his long-running Saturday evening talk show on the Fox News Channel to explore a 2016 presidential bid.
In a January 4 Facebook post, Huckabee said “continued chatter” about a possible White House run “has put Fox News into a position that is not fair to them.”
“As much as I have loved doing the show, I love my country more, and feel that it may be time for me to leave a zone of comfort to engage in the conflicts that have almost destroyed the bedrock foundations of America,” he said.
Huckabee said he will not make a final decision on whether to run until late spring.
Huckabee’s Fox show debuted in September 2008, just six months after he ended his unsuccessful campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. In 2012, Huckabee decided to stick with his show rather than run for the White House again.
He called the show “the ride of a lifetime, and I have never had so much fun in my life.”
The Fox News Channel has a policy of not employing announced political candidates as hosts or commentators, which has forced a number of high-profile Republicans off the air in recent years, including Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Scott Brown.
Huckabee, 59, a Baptist pastor, served as Arkansas governor from 1996 to 2007. With strong support from social conservatives, he won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 and took seven other primaries, mostly in the South, before conceding to the eventual nominee, U.S. Senator John McCain.
Huckabee is one of eight Southerners — seven Republicans and one Democrat — considering a White House bid in 2008.
Among the potential Southern GOP candidates are former Florida Governor Jeb Bush; U.S. Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida; and Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas.
On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has already launched an exploratory committee for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination — a race that’s expected to be dominated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former first lady of Arkansas.