Webb forms 2016 exploratory committee
© Greg Nash

Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) on Wednesday night launched an exploratory committee for a 2016 presidential run.

Webb posted a four-page letter on a website making his case for bipartisan problem-solving, a restrained foreign policy and populist economic policies. 


There had previously been questions as to whether Webb would run as an independent, but in September, he indicated that if he ran, it would be as a Democrat. 

He is, therefore, likely to face Hillary Clinton in the primary, where he would face long odds. Webb did not mention Clinton in the letter, but he did argue that he could win in a steeply uphill campaign. 

"We are starting with very little funding and no full-time staff, but I’ve been here before," Webb wrote, pointing to his successful 2006 Senate campaign in Virginia against former Sen. George Allen (R). 

"In February, 2006 I announced for the Senate only nine months before the election against an entrenched incumbent. We had no money and no staff. We were more than 30 points behind in the polls," Webb wrote. "I promised to work on the same themes I am putting before you now: reorient our national security policy, work toward true economic fairness and social justice, and demand good governance, including a proper balance between the Presidency and the Congress. We won."

Webb pointed to economic inequality, an issue that has driven many liberals to urge Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to challenge Clinton. But Warren insists she will not enter the race.

"The inequalities between top and bottom in our country are greater than at any time in the last hundred years," Webb wrote. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is also considering a presidential run and is focused on inequality. His entry in the race would mean Clinton would have two long-shot challengers pushing her on the economic inequality issue. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is also considering jumping in. 

Webb, however, advocates a more centrist approach than the strongly liberal Sanders. He writes that he wants to "create an environment where leaders from both parties and from all philosophies would feel compelled to work together for the good of the country."

Webb is a veteran of the Vietnam War and served as Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan, which could raise questions in a Democratic primary. 

He argues against too many foreign military interventions. "We need to redefine and strengthen our national security obligations, while at the same time reducing ill-considered foreign ventures that have drained trillions from our economy and in some cases brought instability instead of deterrence," he writes. 

In September, he expressed doubts about President Obama's campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants 

"I would say that is legal," he said. "That is legal."

But he then added: "The question of judgment would remain to be seen."