Former senator Jim Webb dropped out of the running for the Democratic presidential nomination suddenly this week. Webb’s departure seemed especially rash since, despite some difficult moments, he had effectively used the first debate to remind voters that there were alternatives to a two-person race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. (Webb had done enough to be portrayed by Alec Baldwin in a debate spoof on Saturday Night Live — a sure sign of cultural penetration/relevance, even if the currency is mockery.) Webb says he may run as an Independent.
But why would Webb drop out now, especially when it looked as if his complaints about the first debate had landed — and would guarantee Webb more air time during the second debate? Webb lacks the deep pockets that his opponents have, but that’s not new. If Webb had planned to get out of the way for Sanders or Clinton, he could have dropped sooner. If Webb’s resume and expertise resemble anybody else’s on the scene, it’s probably Joe Biden — who sounds increasingly like he’ll be a late entry into the field. It’s reasonable to believe the timing means Webb is getting out of Biden’s way, not clearing a path for Clinton or Sanders. Like Webb, Biden has foreign policy and national security bona fides to counterbalance Clinton’s tenure at the State Department. Webb and Biden have met to discuss each other’s plans. Jim Webb may just be introducing Joe Biden as candidate.