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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

By Ben Brody, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON ––When Jim Webb quit the Democratic presidential race on Oct. 20 with low poll numbers and a minimal debate presence, the former senator from Virginia left open the possibility he would return to run in in a different political guise. Now he appears to be edging closer to doing that.

On Saturday morning, Webb used Twitter and his Facebook page to attack Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for her handling of Libya during her time as secretary of state.

Webb’s lengthy condemnation on Facebook said, among other things, that “Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya.”

Webb’s campaign team has said that year-end would be a reasonable time to decide whether he would run as an independent.

Since dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination, Webb has continued to maintain his website, which he has updated with posts about the possibilities of an independent run. On Twitter, he and his fans have been promoting a (hashtag)WebbNation hashtag.

A run by Webb, who often manages his own social media accounts and has used them recently to promote a petition in favor of his candidacy and to congratulate Bernie Sanders in his battles with the Democratic National Committee, could complicate the 2016 election.

While observers typically have analyzed the prospect of a third-party or independent run by Republican front-runner Donald Trump — or even one from Sanders — Webb could alter the dynamics of the race even with his smaller profile.

A recent CNN poll, for example, forecast tight races between Clinton and several Republican contenders in hypothetical match-ups for the general election. Webb’s campaign said it would concentrate on mobilizing voters in the ideological middle, along with people who have become dissatisfied with politics.

In a tight race, even a small base of support could make him a factor. Ralph Nader won only fractions of a percent of the vote in many states in the 2000 presidential election, yet that arguably helped tip the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush, denying Democratic Vice President Al Gore, the winner of the popular vote, the presidency.

Webb’s public statements have focused economic populism and breaking the monopoly of the two-party system.

Despite the apparent escalation of his interest in an independent candidacy and his aides’ previously stated interest in making Webb’s intentions known by the beginning of 2016, history suggests he could toy with voters for quite some time. Webb missed a self-imposed deadline for getting into the Democratic race and disregarded conventional wisdom on political timing when finally declared hours before the beginning of the July 4 holiday.

©2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Screenshot via CNN