Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
About Chris Cillizza  |  On Twitter: The Fix and The Hyper Fix  |  On Facebook  |  On YouTube  |  RSS Feeds RSS Feed

Va. Senate: Democrat Webb Courts the Netroots

Jim Webb's Senate candidacy got its start on the Internet, and ever since the former Secretary of the Navy formally entered the Virginia Senate race his campaign has assiduously courted the liberal blogosphere.

The latest evidence? Webb's endorsement from retired Gen. Wesley Clark this morning. Clark was the subject of an extended online draft movement aimed at convincing him to run for president in 2004. Clark eventually heeded the call and, despite his disappointing candidacy, has retained a large and dedicated following on the Web. (Witness his strong showings in the Daily Kos 2008 Democratic presidential primary straw poll.)

Much of Clark's stature among the "netroots" is due to his opposition to the war in Iraq -- although during his first days as a candidate he said he "probably" would have supported the use of force resolution that Congress passed in 2002.

Today, in backing Webb's candidacy, Clark called the situation in Iraq "bleak," adding: "We are involved in a war we didn't have to fight." Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran whose relationship with Clark goes back several decades, has made the war the central (and some would argue only) issue in his campaign.

Other examples of the Webb campaign's courting of the liberal blogosphere include a posting on Daily Kos by former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, himself a Vietnam veteran.

"Jim Webb is a man who understands that freedom is not free; that the struggle to preserve the benefits of our liberty requires us to make sacrifices," wrote Kerrey. "But he also a man that has the credibility needed to stand up to false patriots who use the rhetoric of patriotism without understanding that words alone are not enough to justify the use of our military in armed conflict."

The Kerrey post, which was published yesterday, had generated 218 comments by Wednesday afternoon.

The Democratic netroots has demonstrated an ability to promote favored candidates and raise considerable campaign cash for them. But no candidate backed by the netroots has actually won -- although Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett came extremely close in an August 2005 special election in Ohio.

Webb is the latest flavor of the month among the liberal Web community and could well deliver them their first victory if he defeats former technology lobbyist Harris Miller (D) in the June Democratic primary. The winner will face Sen. George Allen (R) in November.

Miller has been a stalwart in local party politics in Virginia for years but may struggle to overcome the name identification edge and celebrity status of Webb. Miller is casting himself as the true Democrat in the race, highlighting Webb's service in the Reagan administration, his support for Allen's 2000 Senate race and past comments he has made about former President Bill Clinton.

In a release today, the Miller campaign asked whether Clark agreed with Webb's statement in 2000 that Clinton "ran the most corrupt administration in modern memory."

Predicting a winner in the June 13 primary is a difficult task because Virginia Democrats have not had a contested Senate nomination fight since 1994 when incumbent Chuck Robb defeated Virgil Goode. Goode was later elected to Congress and switched parties.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 29, 2006; 3:40 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Parsing the Polls: The Immigration Conundrum
Next: Immigration: Readers Help Parse the Polls


Now this flash, straight from the horse's mouth:
(AFD) Rep. Tom DeLay today denounced a Duke University study which showed that prayer made no difference in easing the recovery of heart operation
"The study was made by pointy-headed intellectuals," DeLay told cheering
Christian fundamentalists. "They are all reality-based heathens anyhow.
They picked the wrong religious denominations to do the job. When you want
a job done right, pick devout born-again people like you and me. Just
watch how my prayers work when I get acquitted!"
Contacted in Mexico, President Bush agreed: "Watch how my prayers help
us stay the course and win in Iraq. Faith can move mountains. Dick Cheney
agrees. His missionaries are already active there."
In London, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice admitted "thousands of tactical mistakes" were made in Iraq, but blamed them on the devil. "Our strategy is God-driven, but the devil is very cunning. We shall overcome! After all, Moses spent 40 years in the Wilderness and overcame."
Evangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell agreed that those made made
the study will be condemned to eternal fires.
"Jesus loves us all, except for scientific blasphemers and Muslims," they said in a joint statement. Both noted that God punished Iranians yesterday with a series of earthquakes.
April Fools!!

Posted by: California Observer | March 31, 2006 6:38 PM | Report abuse

What do you mean switched parties?

Miller is a lobbyist and donated heavily to Democrats and some pretty ruthless Republicans.

Give me a break and listen to what Tony said (rather well!).

Posted by: Anonymous | March 30, 2006 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Jill, even if, hypothetically, Webb switched parties, electing him would still accomplish something big for the Democrats-- derailing George Allen's presidential ambitions!

Posted by: The Caped Composer | March 30, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse


James "Nightorse" Webb has the Zell trait! If Webb is elected, he will be a Republican Senator within three years. No doubt about it in my mind.

Want to keep playing tit-for-tat?

Posted by: Jill | March 30, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse


Harris Miller has the Joe-mentum!

Posted by: Jack | March 30, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I agree that it is irresponsible to attempt to conect Jim Webb to Zell Miller. And Lord knows, if Webb is the candidate I will be working hard for him to defeat George Allen. What an embarrassment for the state of Virginia he has been. But, come on Tony, isn't it using the same brush to try to paint Harris Miller with Jack Ambramoff. Miller has been much more than a lobbyist. Not all people of the same professin conduct themselves in the same manner. Is your congressman to be painted the same as Tom Delay? Mine, Bobby Scott, sure should not be. Let's assume both Democrat candidates are honorable men and go from there.

Posted by: waynep | March 30, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Netroots, it's a HOOT!

The observations here are all about stereo-typing, and very short on substance. As a Jim Webb supporter ... before the netroots phenomena ...I can tell you I represent a key demographic for this democratic primary and general election in the fall. And the internet has empowered me to become easily involved in the race, in show of support.

What is that profile? Fairly independent - libertarian leaning former military officer and defense / technology executive. A background which would suggest voting republican. NOT with this President nor the Party which has delivered Careerism, Cronyism, Corruption and Deficets on a GRAND Scale. George Allen is in deep trouble with the Independent swing vote. And Harris Miller the Lobbiest has a little to much in common with Jack Abramoff.

Jim Webb represents the anedote to our current political malaise and hearing him speak... Webb says what needs to be heard far from the Spin Feeding the republicans have perfected.

I've heard both Miller & Webb at local party events.... Miller talks and talks with little moral authority... but lots of what you want hear.

Jim Webb is a BREAK OUT candidate and George Allen knows it. This Webb campaign that receives much inspiration from the Internet crowd will soon receive focus from the national media because of his life story.... Jim Webb is a huge draw for the Democratic Party as his story gets out ... people will understand what Born Fighting is all about. Stay tuned!

Every time I see a mention of Zell Miller in some contrieved connection to Jim Webb ... I'm overwhelmed with such profound IGNORANCE! Go talk with Max Cleland (a Webb supporter) for some education.

Posted by: Tony Mastalski | March 30, 2006 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Very early on in this election cycle I heard that someone by the name of Harris Miller was running for Senate. I went to his web site, and it said little. So I emailed him. To my surprise and pleasure, I had a response within a day, and an agreement for a phone conversation the next day. Harris answered every question that I ask with assurance, and he was in agreement with this progressive thinking voters beliefs. I left the conversation feeling very comfortable with Harris Miller as a candidate who actually believes what he says vs. a candidate who says what he thinks you believe. He has my vote.

Posted by: wayne potrafka | March 30, 2006 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Jim himself has made two appearances on Daily Kos:


he also actively sought out and was interviewed on MyDD here:

and TPM Cafe here:

Posted by: Corey | March 30, 2006 6:55 AM | Report abuse

doesnt Webb seem a little overly militaristic, his slogan is "Born Fighting" I guess that has blue collar appeal but. Is he really an anti-war candidate? I feel he is a little Zell Miller like ie. not very loyal and very angry

Posted by: Anonymous | March 30, 2006 12:27 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Webb supporter, but the netroots fundraising power has been completly overstated. Yes, they did a great job raising money during the special elections because they were the only game in town. I don't think they are going to be able to come even close to that now that they have hundreds of hands out this cycle instead of one or two. The candidates still need to raise the money themselves.

Posted by: Brent Parrish | March 29, 2006 9:06 PM | Report abuse

The netroots is less about Left or Right and more about spine and allegiance. We understand that a Ben Nelson for example has to modify his positions that reflect his constituency. But in the clutch he's not going to enhance himself by disparaging other Democrats for lacking patriotism or values. He'll just say, "my part is a big tent." A Joe Lieberman is the opposite. Courting the netroots is smart on Webb's part. Everybody knows he's a smart and tough minded guy. Interfacing with netroots will serve to establish his credibility as someone the Democrats are cofident will stand with us. By itself that isn't enough to win. But without it he can't win.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | March 29, 2006 8:24 PM | Report abuse

I too got to hear each candidate speak. I went undecided, and I'm still undecided. I'm not certain either candidate really said anything. Miller is by far the more polished political candidate (what would you expect from a lobbyist?), and he spoke at length and at ease, but I really couldn't tell you what he said-except beat George Allen. Webb looked uncomfortable and ill at ease, which suprized me a bit (prior Marine officer you expect stiff, not uncomfortable). I will say this each side has a very odd staff. One called and asked for my help, I showed to stand around. The other looked at me as if I were crazy when I asked if Webb had a Vets group supporting him. I'll be curious to see if Miller can reach the average voter, and if Webb can find some substance and polish. My best guess, it's anyone's race.

Posted by: AClemsen | March 29, 2006 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Stephanie Herseth and Ben Chandler were strongly supported by the netroots and won. In particular, Daily Kos actively pushed for volunteers and donations for both candidates.

It's simply false to say that no netroots candidates have won.

Also, I'd take a look at for a the election results of a number of candidates supported by Democracy for America.

Posted by: Brad Johnson | March 29, 2006 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, you are losing your 'touch' of the Fix.

If you were at last night's FCDC event, you would have immediately dismissed all the nonsense that the local bloggers have been throwing out against Miller. Even their interpretation of last night’s event was comical—nothing beats going to these things in person.

The speeches and Q&A session for Miller and Webb was no contest. Miller did a much better job, and he even answered the questions from the Webb staffer and one of the "weird" Webb followers. Sometimes I feel I've gone to a star trek convention when these good natured youngsters come to support Webb.

The more Miller gets out across the state, the better recognition he gets as a viable candidate. The more Webb speaks (anywhere), the less enthusiastic Democrats in general become.

There are a lot of Miller supports who have given their time and money to his campaign. Webb? Lots of netroot hype and supportive donation here or there, but nothing like the organization and momentum that Miller is achieving state-wide.

The biggest problem with the netroots is that they spin so much that they get dizzy-to-dillusional along the way. Ridiculous! It will be Webb's own undoing.

Oh, and don't forget how poorly Clark did in the 2004 Virginia Primary--A very distant third. He had no real strong support, not even from the Hampton Roads area.

Oh, and another thing. Nation-wide netroots support does not translate into state-wide politics. The inventor of the word, ‘netroots,’ (Jerome Armstrong) conceded as much when he decided to work for Sherrod Brown instead of Paul Hackett. In the end, it is about a good candidate with lots of state-wide support and organization. Harris Miller has that—other active Democrats have seen it in Roanoke, Richmond, and Tysons Corner. Webb? A year behind the curve (at least).

I went there last night to judge for myself. Turns out that Jim Webb has a great military record and likes to refer to passages in some book (??), but that is about it. I see no reason what-so-ever to vote for Webb.

Posted by: Rod Kieffer | March 29, 2006 6:45 PM | Report abuse

if i had money, id give it to webb, im a poor college student in michigan, but allen is a rotten confederate flag waving bigot

Posted by: bp | March 29, 2006 6:17 PM | Report abuse

I heard Harris Miller and James Webb speak last night. I didn't hear word one of negativity from Miller about Webb. About Allen, yes, Miller was negative.

Posted by: Blue in VA | March 29, 2006 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Jackson, presumably Howard Dean was a grassroots favorite. Could you explain specifically what makes him a paragon of the left wing? If the netroots were interested only in leftist credentials, they'd have been wild about Kucinich instead. The netroots have supported plenty of candidates whose positions are moderate, even some (like Melissa Bean) who have been disappointingly very far from far left.

It seems to me that it works the other way around: Anyone the netroots like can end up being painted as "far left" regardless of the candidate's actual positions.

Posted by: KCinDC | March 29, 2006 5:25 PM | Report abuse

A major distinction between this race and other new candidates 'annointed' by the netroots occurs to me. Most of the netroots darlings have been paragons of the left wing. A candidate from either the far right or far left is generally working uphill in a general election.

But James Webb is just the opposite. He was a prominant Republican until recently. If there is any other netroots candidate like him it was Paul Hackett, who certainly beat the spread and exceeded all expectations of what a Democrat could do in that district. Virginia is a lot less Red than Hackett's district in Ohio.

Posted by: Jackson Landers | March 29, 2006 5:16 PM | Report abuse

From what I've seen on the ground at Democratic party events, Webb just about owns this nomination. As you illustrate, Harris Miller really has no option in this race except to 'go negative.'

Webb's entire biography reads like something out of a Democratic wet dream. He's undoubtably one of the most accomplished people in public life. There's not much from his own story that Miller can counter this with. He's in charge of a big corporation and has a lot of money. This doesn't win you a lot of immediate friends in the Democratic party right now. CEO types are largely out in the wake of Enron and Dems grousing about Haliburton and Dick Cheney (Mark Warner made his name as a politician before CEO became a dirty word). So Miller starts out going up-hill and while being a perfectly good, intelligent man he doesn't have a biography or a name that wins him any support.

As Miller spins his wheels he's left with no way of gaining traction except to attack Webb. The truth is that Democrats and Republicans alike don't like nasty primaries. They like unity, unity, unity. The party faithful who vote in primaries see who's slinging mud and they don't like it. Short of some major, brilliant policy proposal, Harris Miller appears doomed to claw his way to the bottom.

Posted by: Jackson Landers | March 29, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

But can the Netroots deliver the vote? Netroots. The term puts a smile on my face. Maybe one day it will slip off the tongue like “soccer mom” and “Nascar dad”. As of now, it hasn’t taken yet.

But, seriously, Chris Matthews and others watch this group, everyone waiting with bated breath. In some sense, I don’t trust it. I wouldn’t hang my hat on the promise of a netroot voter turnout. Which I’m certain Mr. Robb is not doing.

While everyone made a fuss over Mr. Dean’s nicely played insurgent candidacy, he still failed to close the deal—coming a distant third in Iowa, only to be trounced in New Hampshire.

Should we pat Dean on the back for finding a vital new playing field? Or smirk at his inability to muster superior force and storm the gates—something Carter managed in 76’ without breaking a sweat.

Of course, I’d rather have more support than less. The other waste is often the youth vote. But don’t tell anyone under twenty-one this. I don’t want to dampen anyone that age who is enthusiastic about this business.

Haven’t Democrats always courted the college students? When I voted for Clinton’s first term as a rangy youth, there was this serious feeling of being sought out to change the playing field.

But from what I gather, in the 2004 election cycle, youth’s effect on the vote was minimal. They still don’t vote in forceful numbers. (Although Clinton won the youth vote, again, they didn't vote in near the capacity they could have.)

Where is the fuss over the retirement community vote? The furor over courting the Viagara set? As boomers age, the focus will likely turn.

Posted by: The Republican | March 29, 2006 4:48 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company