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Analysis: Webb Drops Out Of Veepstakes

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's decision today to voluntarily remove his name from the pool of people being considered as Barack Obama's running mate came as a significant surprise to those closely monitoring the veepstakes.

"Last week I communicated to Senator Obama and his presidential campaign my firm intention to remain in the United States Senate, where I believe I am best equipped to serve the people of Virginia and this country," Webb said in a statement released by his office. "Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for Vice President."

That's pretty close to Sherman-esque and represents the second serious contender to take himself out of the vice presidential sweepstakes before they ever got under way. (Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland removed himself last month.)

Webb is also the second Virginian to seemingly remove himself from consideration in recent months. Former Gov. Mark Warner, who is running for the state's open Senate seat, said he was focused only on that race in June. (As we wrote in this space, we are somewhat more skeptical about what "no" means when it comes from Warner.)

So, why did he do it?

As always, it's never one thing.

Those familiar with Webb's thinking argue that his success in passing the G.I. Bill of Rights earlier this year confirmed for him his ability to serve as a bridge over the partisan divide in the body and convinced him that he could make the most difference in the Senate.

Webb said as much in his statement. "The bipartisan legislative template we were able to put into effect through 18 months of work in order to enact the new, landmark GI Bill will serve as a prototype for my future endeavors in government," he said. "This process, wherein we brought 58 Senators from both parties to the table as co-sponsors, along with more than 300 members of the House, gives me renewed confidence that the Congress can indeed work effectively across party lines and address the concerns of our citizens."

The other major reason for Webb's decision could well be that he knew that he would almost certainly have to withstand a re-examination of of his past controversial comments -- on affirmative action and women's role in the military -- that his campaign operatives effectively beat down during his 2006 race against Sen. George Allen (R).

While his past writings and comments did not derail Webb during a Senate race, it is almost certain that the re-litigation of why he said or wrote those things during a vetting by the national press would not be an enjoyable experience for the notably temperamental freshman senator.

In making a decision between continuing what has been by most measures a very successful first term and facing that sort of potentially rough vetting, it makes sense that Webb chose the course he did.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 7, 2008; 5:38 PM ET
Categories:  Veepstakes  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: "Old" vs. "Change" and the Battle of Perception
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Posted by: flower1800 | July 22, 2008 2:59 AM | Report abuse

"A psychology and modern languages dual major at the Univeristy of Michigan, I recall Nostradamus's cryptic description of the final Anti-Christ after Napoleon and Hitler. Is it really possible after searching for Osama Bin Laden and warring against Saddam Hussein that America could actually elect Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency--though we know so little about him?"

Please tell me you're kidding about having gone to college.

Posted by: Tony | July 17, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, but is anyone considering the largest majority in America right now -- women?

We make up over half the population, statistically work more than men, live longer than men, and pay more taxes than men.

We are paid less than men, were denied the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) in the 1980s that would have solidified the same military and economic opportunities as men for us, and are now the healthier of the two sexes according to a recent National Hygiene study.

Don't tell me a woman shouldn't find her way onto a ticket. I was every bit as disappointed to see Hillary leave the race as my 5 year old daughter and 91 year old grandmother.

Barack Obama rose too quickly, and there will be consequences for that. He is an inexperienced political opportunist who is more ambitious than the lobbyists he claims "control Washington."

A psychology and modern languages dual major at the Univeristy of Michigan, I recall Nostradamus's cryptic description of the final Anti-Christ after Napoleon and Hitler. Is it really possible after searching for Osama Bin Laden and warring against Saddam Hussein that America could actually elect Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency--though we know so little about him?

Too much blind faith for me. I guess I call that stupidity; Mr. Obama calls it "hope."

Posted by: soccermomXX3242 | July 14, 2008 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Thumper, you have a good point.
I'm from the Greater Chicago area in Gary, Indiana, and I know that Hillary was evey bit as popular in this part of my state that Barack was in Chicago.

Webb is a nuance. He rubs off as a Republican-esque Democrat for the sole purpose of encouraging people who admire such Republicans to vote for him. Yet, aren't militarized Republicans the very reason we went to war? I'd say they had a lot to do with it.

Obama needs to think about leaving that part of American though behind -- life's too complex to be stoic. Webb, though a great actor when acting like a military Republican, needs to be joined by a true blue Democrat in the senate in representing Virginia--no more pretending.

That's why Fmr. Gov. Mark Warner will be Virginia's next senator. Go Mark!

Posted by: Coach Beamer | July 14, 2008 12:40 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry; I totally screwed up that last part of what I was saying. I do in fact think a woman would make an excellent Obama runningmate -- preferably an experienced one to counter-balance Obama's lack thereof. She'd have to be white, of course, and she'd need to be southern or mid-western. A governor would be nice, but HRC may suit well since Arkansas and Illinois are both her true home states -- South and Midwest. So, in the long run, HRC (NOTE: HILLARY IS A BLUE-EYED, BLOND-HAIRED, WHITE ANGLO-SAXON PROTESTANT which is GREAT in a national election) would do wonders for the Obama ticket...she is everything he is not.

Posted by: Coach Thumper | July 14, 2008 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone actually KNOW what would happen to Webb's seat if he was elected VEEP with Obama?

In most circumstances, can't the governor appoint a replacement?

Anyway, Webb made the most sense to me: articulate, tough bulldog style, new senator (no voting record to harp on), anti-Iraq war, former GOP clout and military gravitas.

(Did I mention white, male Southerner with strong Scotch-Irish roots and a name so opposite "Obama" it ended in two Bs).

I do not go with a woman or HRC. No way. I could live with Kaine or Bayh, but Biden seems the logical - and preferable - choice.

Posted by: Coach Thumper | July 9, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

This Hillary "Dead Ender" will not vote for OBHAMAS even with Hillary in the VP spot.

Hillary for President '08!

Posted by: Amazonia | July 9, 2008 12:20 AM | Report abuse

This Hillary "Dead-Ender" will not vote for OBHAMAS even with Hillary on the ticket as VP.

Hillary for President '08!

Posted by: Amazonia | July 8, 2008 11:54 PM | Report abuse

I was thinking the choice was going to be Claire McCaskill, but the fact that links to the official Dem page is extremely persuasive. That isn't happening with any other candidate.

I think that the poster who referred to that is on to something.

Posted by: scootmandubious | July 8, 2008 9:04 PM | Report abuse

HRC is the only choice that makes real sense. She already motivated half of the democrats to vote for her. She has the name recognition and she would have her replacement appointed by a Democratic governor. That is the dream ticket and would be an insult to all the people that voted for her if not chosen. Judas Richardson is the last choice. He has a bigger groping problem than the governator ever did. Richardson is about as inspiring as....McCain...sad little man.

Posted by: Patrick | July 8, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree with an earlier comment that the idea of Jim Webb being on the ticket was dead on arrival. No one the dems are going to risk giving up that seat.

In that same vein, Tim Kaine WILL NOT be the V.P. either. Think about it:

1) Kaine still has one more year in office. The Lt. Governor is Republican. Why hand over his last year of office to a republican.

2) Virginia will be electing a new governor in 2009. In the event that Obama wins, why would the dems hand over the keys to governor's mansion to a republican lt. governor in an election year? Especially considering that the attorney general (who is also a republican) is already running.

Chris, please take Tim Kaine off your short list. It's not happening.

Posted by: dordson | July 8, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Chet Edwards from Texas! Get real! He isn't progressive enough for us Texans, let alone be a VP. He is not the Change we need or want.

I did hear Kaine speak at the state convention in Austin. I believe he was sent there for a purpose. He is young, charismatic and another good speaker. I think that he would make a great VP. Kaine will bring change as he is an "outsider".

The up and coming Texas politician to watch is TX Senator Kirk Watson, former mayor of Austin. He did a superb job chairing the state convention. He would be an awesome replacement for Perry. I can't wait!!

Posted by: Janet-TX | July 8, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

well, I was dead set against it a month ago, but I am coming around to the idea that HRC should be the VP choice. Her as VP would not motivate the uninspired republicans as much as if she was the actual nominee. She has experience in Washington, can debate policy circles around whatever VP schmuk McCains chooses, and is a woman so still fits within the "change" theme.

She has high negatives, but also high positives. I would have preferred Webb, but a) he isn't doing it and b) he would have gone a long way to killing Obama's chances with many women voters.

Posted by: oscars2212 | July 8, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Bayh is not the only Indiana Democrat with national security credentials who might end up as Obama's vice-presidential selection. Perhaps former Representative Lee Hamiliton is a bit old to be tapped, but former representative Tim Roemer is a live prospect. Both Hamilton and Roemer are on Obama's national security team. Roemer, with a doctorate from Notre Dame and a Democrats for Life history, also brings potent outreach to morally conservative Roman Catholics and evangelicals who will be sorely needed by the Democrats in the industrial Midwest. Obama could continue to endorse women's right to choose, but also endorse Democrats for Life positions that enhance the freedom of women with problem pregnancies to choose to avoid abortions. Roemer's nomination could cement that stand. It would also show Obama's ability to implement a new style of politics that cuts across traditional battle lines.

Posted by: JohnJT | July 8, 2008 7:21 AM | Report abuse

I like Webb a lot but he doesn't have the temperament to be anyone's VP, and while I'm not for going to extremes to appease the Hillary Dead Enders his hideous old statements about U.S. servicewomen would be an absolutely legitimate objection as Obama tries to run up his margin among the female vote.

Posted by: aleks | July 8, 2008 7:02 AM | Report abuse

You would think people would be killing them selfs to be his VP not running away from the offer.

The other choice is they failed the back round check or Hillary Soprano is making them an offer the can't refuse.

VJ Machiavelli
ps Obama is the Neville Chamberlain of the Democ"rat"ic Party, and that is "CHANGE" for the worst.

Posted by: VJ Machiavelli | July 8, 2008 2:06 AM | Report abuse

"Since he essentially won the nomination last month Senator Obama has been morphing into Senator Clinton."

Um, they have like identical positions on pretty much everything.

Posted by: DDAWD | July 8, 2008 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Chris, you are too slow getting information!

Can you post whether "abortion" is an issue or THE Issue? I want to see how women voters would respond.

Obama has changed ("refined") his positions on abortion so let's see how they think.

Posted by: Premier | July 8, 2008 1:16 AM | Report abuse


Since he essentially won the nomination last month Senator Obama has been morphing into Senator Clinton.

No, not really. Clinton had firm stands on her positions and policy proposals that would not have allowed her to back out of things she had stated support for. Because he runs on rhetoric, he has let me, as a Lefty down- she had many progressive stands (cetainly more progressive than almost any of those other people that are being listed here as possible VPs).

Richardson is probably his best strategic bet on paper although he creates an "all minority" ticket- that might be hard to sell middle America and he is an awful campaigner (charisma challenged). Russert used to eat him alive.
HRC is politically a good move.


Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2008 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Hagel is a right winger. He does not belong on a Dem ticket. His voting record is more conservative than McCain.

Biden is a walking political mistake- see 1988 or the opening day of his campaign 2007. HRC is still your best VP candidate- although she would do better to wait for a supreme court justiceship.


Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2008 11:34 PM | Report abuse

And the Dems would have given up a prized senate seat from Virginia...why?

I never understood why intelligent people ever thought Webb had a chance as VP. There were just too many things working against him from the start. Of the current, popular picks, I'm thinking its down to Biden or Kaine.

Posted by: scrapster | July 7, 2008 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Well, I would believe that a freshman Senator pairing up with an even fresher one would be a risky choice.

At least if Sen. Obama paired up with an experienced Governor from a purple state, or with the likes of Sen. Biden or even Sen. Hagel, it would be a fair, good balance and an assurance to all.

Posted by: Tim | July 7, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

No matter, McSame is a dope, he has no answers, the RNC is a mess: WALKOVER.

[unless the Cheney crowd manages to kill Obama]

Anyone who wants to be Obama's VP has to stand next to him nodding, smiling...that is all. Webb is at least a serious person, so he won't play Barak's Bimbo.

Posted by: shrink2 | July 7, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad as a Virginian that Webb will be our senator for another four years--and maybe more (clearly, it's his seat to keep or forfeit--he's very popular in Virginia).

Posted by: Vaughan | July 7, 2008 10:04 PM | Report abuse

So none of you have heard the rumor from TX that Rep. Chet Edwards is in the VP mix for BHO?

Edwards is the "Blue Dog" who represents Fort Hood.

Posted by: MarkInAustin | July 7, 2008 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Latest buzz is they have added John Kerry on the short list since Webb is out.

Sebeluis is more like "Tammy Wynette" in big donor circle among democrats. She would be a big laughing stock like Geraldine Ferraro, all the way to the voting booth in November.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2008 9:35 PM | Report abuse

"So maybe the Democrats will wake up
and throw Barack Hussein Obama under the
bus before their convention in Denver.
No Way Obama! NOBAMA!"
She LOST. Seek help. Soon.

Posted by: GObama | July 7, 2008 9:04 PM | Report abuse

I just read Jim Webb's book (heartily recommended) and have two observations. First, his description of his experience of enduring his first campaign literally read like someone who had PTSD. He hated it. It was clearly worse than combat or other physically painful things to him because of the dirtiness and ugliness of the process, which he compared to a sewer. He is so tough, so devoted to duty, that I am confident he will soldier through each election cycle and do it well, but anyone who writes that way about the process of compaigning and doesn't currently have it scheduled for another four years (when his term ends) is clearly not eager to tackle it again now -- and for that matter, NOT the person I would want on my ticket. Let the guy govern. I believe his next step may involve prison or drug law reform, based on a full chapter in the book. But whatever he does, it will be solid, gutted out, and via the Senate. I'm proud he's my Senator, and yes, I'm a liberal white woman from northern Virginia.

My second observation is that many, many, many of Senator Obama's statements in his speech on patriotism and similar topics over the last week were clearly inspired directly by Senator Webb's book and perhaps his speeches and direct advice as well. Senator Webb has put his finger squarely on the difficulties of relationships between the military culture and the Democrats during the 1960s (which led him to become a Republican) AND on the way back to mutual respect. Senator Obama has obviously gotten the message. I hope that Webb truly does continue to work hard for and advise our nominee because he is a very smart guy on such topics and has much to contribute even outside the ticket.

Posted by: Fairfax Voter | July 7, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I saw an interesting link the other day that drew on early leaks from the Obama campaign's VP search.

The chatter was that Obama had already selected Evan Bayh.

If you go to it's a hidden link, but it connects you directly to

Perhaps they've simply reserved the site in case. But Biden, Richardson, Clinton etc do not get the same treatment.

Wacko speculation? Or has the decision already been made?

Bayh makes sense. He's older and very experienced as a former governor and senator with Armed Forces and Intelligence committee work under his belt. He gives Obama the military/intelligence expertise he needs, he's still young enough to be a viable presidential candidate after 8 years (unlike many others), he has a record of connecting well with middle class, blue-collar voters, but his age and experience aren't so much larger than Obama's as to diminish Obama's own stature. Finally, Bayh gives Obama a shot at a red state. And he was co-director of Clinton's campaign, which brings the Clinton team in. Maybe he likes Patti Solis-Doyle and that's why she's already been picked to start plans.

When you think about it, it doesn't sound so crazy.

I originally thought Webb and Biden would be his best picks. But, even before I saw this information, I had begun to swing to Bayh based on all the above positives.

Posted by: MNobserver | July 7, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Yikes! Now even the Democrats donot want to
be their Marxist Socialist Democrat Liberal
Loser Pathological Liar Barack Obama's Vice
President,as Webb will be the first in a
long line of the Non-Obama-Pelosi-Dean Democrats who will point blank turn Obama
down. So maybe the Democrats will wake up
and throw Barack Hussein Obama under the
bus before their convention in Denver.
No Way Obama! NOBAMA!

Posted by: Sandy5274 | July 7, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Anon - although overstated, I think you've got something. On the assumption that Clinton isn't the VP nominee, the choice should not be perceived as a slap. Mind you, Allen tried tagging Webb as a sexist and failed miserably.


Posted by: Fairlington Blade | July 7, 2008 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Jim Webb could not accept the V.P. nod because he is too close to the Talihook scandal where he sided with the defendants.

Feminists, Hillary voters would be all over this.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2008 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Too bad. I had wanted Webb but his clumsy commentary on the Clark-McCain dispute last week made me think he wasn't quite ready for prime time. Oh, well there are other promising candidates:

Jack Reed tends to fit the Webb billing, military background, against the war from the start, etc.

Joe Biden or Bill Richardson would also be good choices.

Another that should take themself out of the race is Hillary, but she is so desperate for any kind of advancement, she obviously won't. Her shameless brownnosing on Obama borders on pathetic, after she thought the nomination was hers by right of passage and deemed Obama "unqualified" relative to her. She would be a disastrous choice and at all costs, Obama should not pick her.

Posted by: RealChoices | July 7, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

dwfortin - Bloomberg would be a solid Democrat had it not been that the deck was stacked in the NYC mayoral primary. So, even if HRC were to leave the Senate and Bloomberg ran a campaign, he'd caucus with the Democrats. I don't think it hurts the Democrats that Vermont has an independent senator who caususes with them. Besides, the replacement senator would be appointed by the Democratic governor of NY.

I'm glad Webb is out of the running. He has the makings of a great senator, but was not a great campaigner. It took repeated gaffes by George Allen for him to win. He ran a campaign that was pretty much here's who I am, take it or leave it. I don't think that's what's needed on the national stage and Webb knew it. Kaine is an interesting choice, but doesn't bring much besides Virginia. That much having been said, that's a lot!


Posted by: Fairlington Blade | July 7, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

"Oh darn, Saddam had WMDs after all"

thelack of science education in the repubican is overwhelming.
Is it because all their intelligence is designed?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

It's a nice statement. But does it really mean he's officially off the list? I won't believe until Obama names somebody else Veep.

Posted by: matt | July 7, 2008 7:30 PM | Report abuse

I've been telling this to anyone who will listen...under no circumstances will the Dem VP nominee be a sitting senator. The Dems are in line to make big gains in the senate this fall, to the point that the GOP will be unable to block legislation consistently.

Every senate seat counts, to the point that putting two seats (Obama's and the VP's) in jeopardy would be stupid. HRC is especially out--this would hand the NY senate seat to Bloomberg. Bayh is a Dem from a right leaning state--that seat is too risky to lose. Warner has an excellent shot at winning the seat in VA--need that one. Biden or Dodd might be possible, as both DE and CT are relatively safe, but both would do more good in the senate and didn't exactly light the hearts on fire of Dems in the primaries.

Look for a governor or ex-senator. Richardson is safest. Sabelius has too many question marks. Rendell shoots his mouth off too much. Hagel would be a sexy choice, but is too far to the right. My money's on Kaine.

Posted by: dwfortin | July 7, 2008 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Webb was not the answer. I respect him and support him but, in an era when we are supposed to be changing the way business is done in Washington to promote a leading "Republican-Lite" to the Vice Presidency is not what reformers are looking for.

Since he essentially won the nomination last month Senator Obama has been morphing into Senator Clinton. Maybe he should go ahead and place her on the ticket. I for one think she is more a reformer than Webb and the others.

Posted by: RWinLA | July 7, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I believe that the other lie exposed is yours.


Posted by: Fairlington Blade | July 7, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

change, change, change

no need to study issues or contemplate positions. We are Libs, we don't think, we FEEL.

Posted by: snObama | July 7, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Oh darn, Saddam had WMDs after all. What's a good Lib supposed to chant now?

Posted by: another lie exposed | July 7, 2008 6:40 PM | Report abuse

I escaped the asylum. I'm back!

Posted by: drindl | July 7, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Even poor, dumb Jim Webb is not stupid enough to allie with a loser and liar like Obama. the rats are deserting the ship. It served its purpose and defeated hillary. now it can continue its destiny into oblivion and landslide defeat.

Posted by: Even DINOs know | July 7, 2008 6:33 PM | Report abuse

I have a lot of respect for Jim Webb, but I have to agree with his decision to pull out of the running for VP.

Not only will it allow him to continue the upward track of his political career, it will help me win a bet against my husband on who will be the veepchoice. ;)

Obama-Richardson '08!

Posted by: Julia Kelly | July 7, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

'a novice like Obama' -- and 'scrutiny by the national press corps' -- you mean like the 'scrutiny' they have given to McCain and Bush?


Of course, it is true that the press corps will dig up any little thing they can about Democrats, while letting Republicans get away with murder.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2008 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Why is it always about Obama, Chris? When are you going to start writing about Mr. McCain's gaffes, flip-flops, rude remarks against his wife, etc.? There's plenty to be discussed there. Let's see it!!!!

Posted by: ossilot | July 7, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

This is not news. When Senator Webb was on "Meet the Press" some time ago, he stated to Tim Russert that he really was not interested in being VP. The media just does not want to believe anything any politician says. They would rather try to make it a news story - as is being done here. Also, Strickland said he would not want to be VP when he was backing Clinton way back when. So, as I said, this is not news and everyone should stop harping on the same thing over and over. It would be nice if journalists and news programs would go back to some real reporting but I guess that would be too much to ask,

Posted by: ossilot | July 7, 2008 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Webb carries too much baggage and would not hold up to scrutiny by the national press corp. He makes statements that are far too controversial and could not play second fiddle to a novice like Obama. He did the right thing by taking himself out of the game.

Posted by: Capt Howard | July 7, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

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