Is Jim Webb About to Drop Out of the Democratic Presidential Race? (UPDATE: Yep, He Just Did)

A Fox report says he might run as an independent, might be gone for good.


Fox has a scoop:

Let's get this cake out of the rain.

Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb will announce Tuesday that he is dropping out of the Democratic presidential race, Fox News has learned.

Webb is said to be disillusioned with the Democratic Party—as well as the Republican Party—and how the political parties are being pulled to allegedly extreme positions by the huge amounts of loosely regulated money fueling the campaigns….While Webb is thought to be weighing a possible independent bid, he is not expected to launch an independent campaign for president Tuesday. Rather, he's expected to take some time after his announcement to talk with people from across the political spectrum before making a decision.

Webb's press conference is scheduled for 1:00 this afternoon. We'll find out then whether Fox's sources are right or wrong; the story is certainly plausible. [UPDATE: It's true. At the press conference he said he's withdrawing from the Democratic race and "thinking about all my options." Asked whether he still considers himself a Democrat, he replied, "We'll think about that."]

I watched last week's Democratic debate with my Twitter feed open, which means I got to see a bunch of people asking some version of the query Why is this guy a Democrat? (This was especially common after he delivered his defense of gun rights.) Of course, if Webb had run in the GOP, it wouldn't take long after the first abortion question before Twitter lit up with people asking Why is this guy a Republican?

We'll never have that recipe again.

The conventional wisdom has it that Webb is "more conservative" than Clinton, but that isn't exactly right; his politics don't really fit on the conventional left-right spectrum. In another year, pundits might have looked at his opposition to the Iraq and Libya wars, his early support for criminal justice reform, and his invective against plutocrats, and declared him a challenger from the left. That wouldn't have been any more accurate than the Webb-is-a-conservative narrative, but it wouldn't have been less accurate either. Earlier in this campaign cycle, struggling to find the right phrase for Webb's ideological mix, I called him a "left-wing paleoconservative"; while this did not, strictly speaking, make sense, it did have the advantage of indicating just how inadequate the traditional political labels can be.

Webb's combination of views—a supporter of both gun rights and abortion rights, skeptical of military intervention but not a full-fledged dove, an economic populist who also dislikes the IRS—isn't especially unusual in the country at large, but there's enough dealkillers there to keep him from being the standard-bearer of either major party in its present incarnation. And while he may be thinking about running as an independent, it's hard to imagine him catching fire that way this year either: A serious independent presidential campaign requires a lot of money and energy, and Webb hasn't really been rolling in either.

I've got plenty of disagreements with Webb—the man has defended conscription, for heaven's sake—but he was easily the most interesting candidate on the Democratic end of the field this year. And now he may be gone. That's 2015 for you: a year when the "interesting outsider" niche has been seized by a self-infatuated real-estate tycoon.