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.
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