Sounds like Jim Webb is leaning toward an independent presidential bid

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Ten days after ending his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb appears to be leaning toward an independent candidacy. His guest editorial in today’s Washington Post is titled, “America needs an independent presidential candidate.” Excerpt:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) notwithstanding, the Democratic Party has coalesced around a member of a powerful, moneyed dynasty whom at this point most Americans do not trust and half do not like. If successful, she would guarantee further gridlock; if unsuccessful, she could lead the Democratic Party to the same dismal results it experienced in the elections in 2010 and 2014.

Tectonic shifts occur slowly but eventually they produce earthquakes. It is becoming ever clearer that we are on the cusp of a new era in U.S. politics, driven by the reality that a large percentage of Americans really do dislike both political parties and their leaders. They want and deserve something different, and nowhere is that reality more clearly seen than in the presidential race, in which the extremes that have taken over the nominating process have become glaringly obvious.

There can be no better answer to these developments than electing as president a tested, common-sense independent who can bring to Washington a bipartisan administration to break the gridlock paralyzing our political debates and restore the faith of our people in their leaders.

I am in the process of deciding whether to mount such a campaign. Clearly, the need for another option grows stronger and more apparent by the day.

Disenchantment with the major political parties is nothing new. But if the much better-known independent candidate Ross Perot couldn’t win a single state after spending some $60 million on his 1992 presidential bid, how on earth does Webb think he could be elected next year? He’d need to raise an estimated $8 million just to get on the ballot in all 50 states. In his last fundraising quarter as a Democratic candidate, Webb raised less than $700,000.

For a fraction of the expense of running for president, Webb could become an influential nationwide advocate for criminal justice reform. I remain hopeful that after weighing the costs and benefits, Webb will reject a hopeless vanity bid in favor of an issue-based campaign to change this country for the better.

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Lincoln Chafee exits Democratic race

Former Governor and Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island ended his presidential campaign today, saying to a conference of the Women’s Leadership Forum that “the Republican agenda sets back women’s rights and I pledge all my energy towards a big 2016 victory for Democrats across the country.” Chafee was getting no traction in national or Iowa polls of Democrats, nor did he perform well in last week’s televised debate.

With Vice President Joe Biden ruling out a third presidential bid and Jim Webb ending his quest for the Democratic nomination this week, the primaries are shaping up to be a straightforward choice between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Martin O’Malley won’t have to fight with other second-tier candidates for attention anymore, but he has a lot of work to do to present himself as a viable alternative to the front-runners.

Chafee had been scheduled to speak last at tomorrow night’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines, and I was dreading the prospect of hundreds of people leaving the hall during his remarks. Way too many Iowa Democrats did that during Chafee’s speech to the “Wing Ding” in August and during Webb’s speech to the IDP’s Hall of Fame dinner in July. Such poor form not to hear out all the candidates, even marginal ones.

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New Des Moines Register poll: Clinton 48, Sanders 41

Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders as the first choice of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers by 48 percent to 41 percent, with all other candidates far behind, according to a new poll by Selzer & Co. for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics. Jennifer Jacobs reported the main findings in today’s Des Moines Register. Since the poll was in the field before Vice President Joe Biden ruled out running for president again, the Register reallocated Biden’s supporters to their named second-choice candidate. Selzer’s previous Iowa poll showed Clinton ahead of Sanders by 37 percent to 30 percent with Biden in the field and by 43 percent to 35 percent without Biden as an option.

After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from Jacobs’ report, focusing on weak points for Clinton and Sanders.

Just 2 percent of respondents named Martin O’Malley as their first choice in the Register’s latest poll, behind “not sure” at 4 percent and “uncommitted” at 3 percent. Bleeding Heartland has a post in progress with my hypothesis on why O’Malley is getting no traction in Iowa, despite doing all the right things in terms of organizing and retail politics. Every time I’ve seen the former Maryland governor campaign here this year, audiences have responded favorably to his stump speech. I usually hear good feedback from other Democrats who have attended his events too, but it’s not translating into enough people signing supporter cards. Unfortunately for O’Malley, both Clinton and Sanders performed very well in last week’s debate, which drew record viewership for a debate featuring Democratic presidential candidates.

Jim Webb made the right choice to drop out of the race; the Register’s new poll showed him tied with Lincoln Chafee at 1 percent. Yesterday, Webb tweeted that it’s time for this country to “fix” the criminal justice system. I hope he will become heavily engaged in criminal justice reform efforts at the federal and state levels, instead of pouring his energy into an independent presidential bid.

The most shocking finding in the the Register’s latest poll: Iowa Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is “good for Iowa.” Among likely Democratic caucus-goers, 39 percent said the TPP deal is good for Iowa, 27 percent said bad for Iowa, and 34 percent were unsure. Among likely Republican caucus-goers, just 27 percent said TPP was good for Iowa, 30 percent said bad for Iowa, and 42 percent were unsure. For decades, the Iowa business community and in particular representatives of Big Ag have spun “free trade” agreements as good for this state, so I would have expected much stronger support for TPP among Republicans.

UPDATE: Quinnipiac released a new Iowa poll on October 23 showing Clinton leading Sanders by 51 percent to 40 percent, with O’Malley at 4 percent. I enclosed below excerpts from the polling memo. Last month’s Quinnipiac poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers showed Sanders at 41 percent and Clinton at 40 percent.

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A better use of Jim Webb's time than running for president as an independent

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Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb ended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination today. Warning that “The very nature of our democracy is under siege due to the power structure and the money that finances both political parties,” Webb said he will spend the next few weeks deciding whether to run for president as an independent. He still believes he “can provide the best leadership” to meet the country’s challenges and intends “to remain fully engaged in the debates that are facing us.”

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who was the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee in 2012, recently estimated that getting on the ballot in all 50 states would cost about $8 million and would require a lot of organizational work. Webb asserted today, “I have no doubt that if I ran as an independent we would have significant financial help.” But his presidential campaign raised less than $700,000 during the entire third quarter. Nor did Webb build much of an organization, even in the early-nominating states.

Webb could devote the next year to seeking ballot access and public attention, winning a few percent of the vote in the best-case scenario. Or, he could influence a salient public policy debate that is close to his heart with a much smaller investment of his time and other people’s money.

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First Democratic presidential debate discussion thread

In a few moments, five Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage in Las Vegas for their first televised debate. I wish the Democratic National Committee hadn’t stood in the way of scheduling more debates, starting this summer. Listening to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz try to defend her stance in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer today, all I could think was, thank heaven for the “Big Blue Wall.” We aren’t going to win elections on Wasserman-Schultz’s strategic skills, that’s for sure.

All of the candidates are under pressure tonight. Hillary Clinton wants to change the dominant media narrative, which has been relentlessly negative about her candidacy for months. Bernie Sanders has his first substantial block of tv time to talk about his policies. In recent months, network news coverage has devoted far more air time to Joe Biden’s possible presidential bid than to Sanders’ actual campaign, which is drawing record crowds.

As the loudest voice for more debates, who has received relatively little media attention so far, Martin O’Malley needs a strong showing tonight, especially since the other debates scheduled before the Iowa caucuses are all happening on weekends, when viewership will likely be low. Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee will also want to break through to a national audience, but they are not building real campaign organizations the way O’Malley has done. Twitter user dcg1114, who posted this guest piece at Bleeding Heartland last month, noted today that the first debate of the 1984 election cycle gave Gary Hart his “first real sign of life.” In particular, that debate helped Hart improve his standing for the Iowa caucuses.

Incidentally, former Iowan and Democratic activist Tommi Makila wrote a blistering commentary contrasting O’Malley’s criticism of the DNC’s “rigged” process with the “rigged” Democratic primaries Makila has observed since moving to Maryland years ago.

Please share any relevant comments in this thread. I’ll update this post later with first thoughts on the debate. UPDATE: My impressions are below.

After the jump I’ve posted videos of the latest commercials Clinton has been running, as well as the debut tv ad the Generation Forward PAC put on the air in Iowa supporting O’Malley.  

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Iowa Democratic caucus links and latest polls

It’s been a while since Bleeding Heartland had a discussion thread about the Democratic caucus campaign. After the jump I’ve posted highlights from the latest opinion polls of Iowa Democrats and other links on campaign infrastructure and strategies. Whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is building a stronger Iowa organization so far is an open question.

Any comments about the caucuses are welcome in this thread.

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