Long shot Jim Webb launches exploratory committee for presidential bid

Long shot Jim Webb launches exploratory committee for presidential bid
Then-Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) as he speaks during a rally for President Obama in Virginia Beach, Va., in 2012. (Steve Helber / Associated Press)

Citing his military background and work across the aisle with Republicans, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb announced he has launched an exploratory committee to consider what would be a long shot quest for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

"Over the past few months thousands of concerned Americans from across the political spectrum have urged me to run for president," said Webb in an online video unveiled late Wednesday. " A constant theme runs through these requests. Americans want positive, visionary leadership that they can trust, at a time when our country is facing historic challenges."

Webb, 68, who served a single term in the Senate from 2007 to 2013, is the first candidate from either major political party to form an exploratory committee and begin to raise money that can go toward a potential presidential run.

Between noting the four years he served in the Ronald Reagan administration and the need to "fix our country, and to reinforce the values that have sustained us," one thing Webb did not mention in his 14-minute video: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The former secretary of State and first lady is widely expected to run for president and is the clear front-runner of any pack of candidates who might seek the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton has said she will announce her decision in early 2015.

During his stint in Congress, Webb, a former Marine who served in Vietnam, traveled in 2009 to Myanmar, where he helped secure the release of an American imprisoned by its then-reclusive leader Gen. Than Shwe. At the time, Webb was at the forefront of a pro-engagement movement that encouraged discussions with the long-ruling generals of Myanmar.

"As soon as I was elected we began calling for America to strongly reengage in East Asia. We put this issue on the table two years before President Obama came to office and three years before his administration announced what they called a 'pivot' toward this vital region," said Webb, in what could be viewed as a subtle jab toward Clinton's time as secretary of State in the Obama administration.

Webb knows his chances at capturing the nomination are seen as remote at best.

"The first primaries are about a year away," Webb noted in a fundraising pitch to supporters. "Your early support will be crucial as I evaluate whether we might overcome what many commentators see as nearly impossible odds."

Others considering a run for the Democratic nomination include Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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