Steve Helber/AP

Jim Webb Announces He is Running for President

The former senator from Virginia announced his 2016 bid Thursday afternoon.

 The total number of Democratic presidential candidates just grew to five: Jim Webb is in.

"After many months of thought, deliberation, and discussion, I have decided to seek the office of the Presidency of the United States," wrote the former senator from Virginia at the start of an email to supporters that is more than 2,000 words long and dotted with photos.

The Democrat announced that he formed an exploratory committee in November, and has traveled to several early-primary states. His announcement comes two days after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined the race, becoming the 14th Republican vying for his party's presidential nomination. Webb faces stiff competition for the Democratic ticket—cough, Hillary Clinton, cough—and he knows it.

"I understand the odds, particularly in today's political climate where fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money," he said. "But our country needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us. We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process."

Webb's announcement was chock-full of subtle digs at Clinton. "We need a president who understands leadership, who has a proven record of actual accomplishments, who can bring about bipartisan solutions, who can bring people from both sides to the table to get things done," he said. Recall that, in April 2014, a State Department spokeswoman could not name a single achievement of Clinton's tenure as secretary of State when a reporter asked her to give one. 

Webb touted his military service and experience in national security policy: He was a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, served in Vietnam, and spent five years working for the Pentagon, including as the secretary of the Navy. "Let me assure you, as president I would not have urged an invasion of Iraq, nor as a senator would I have voted to authorize it," he said. Recall that Clinton did.

Webb criticized the Obama administration's foreign policy choices, too. "And today I would not be the president to sign an executive order establishing a long-term relationship with Iran if it accepts Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons," he said.

Webb is an economic populist and critic of Wall Street, and was such well before Sen. Elizabeth Warren—a Democrat who has repeatedly said she won't run for president—was known for being both. He has repeatedly warned fellow Democrats that they are losing the support of white working-class voters. He has also angered members of the party with some of his positions, particularly his criticism of affirmative action.

Webb's populist bent could appeal to what anti-Clinton Democrats are looking for, as National Journal's Bob Moser wrote this year: "A skeptic of military interventionism, and a dyed-in the-wool champion of the less-privileged. No other potential candidate in either party can offer the combination of deep foreign policy expertise and anti-Wall Street fervor that Webb can muster—and he's staked himself out clearly and consistently to Clinton's left in both realms."

Still, even as someone with a substantial track record, Webb has a long, long way to go.

Ben Pershing contributed to this article.

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