WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb said on Tuesday he will drop his long-shot bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and explore an independent run for the White House.
Webb, whose struggling campaign barely registered in opinion polls, said he would spend the next few weeks talking to people and groups who have urged him to mount an independent candidacy.
“I am not going away; I’m thinking about all my options,” Webb, 69, told a news conference, acknowledging that his more conservative political views were out of line with Democratic Party leaders and primary voters.
The former senator from Virginia said Americans were “disgusted” with the highly partisan nature of campaigns and he believed there was growing room for an “honest broker” who could bridge the political divide.
“Americans don’t like the extremes to which both parties have moved in recent years and, quite frankly, neither do I,” he said.
Webb’s departure will have no impact on the Democratic race by four active candidates, led by front-runner Hillary Clinton. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to decide soon whether he will jump into the primary contest preceding the November 2016 election.
Webb was not an active presence on the campaign trail, and his participation in the first Democratic debate last week was notable for his repeated complaints about his lack of air time more than for any policy statements.
The decorated war hero, who served in the Vietnam War and was secretary of the Navy under Republican President Ronald Reagan, is known for outspoken critiques of U.S. foreign policy and unswerving support for American troops serving overseas.
But his views on gun rights, taxes and other social issues were much more conservative than most Democratic contenders.
Webb said he was aware of the history of poor performance of other independent candidates in recent presidential races but thought 2016 could be different.
“Because of the paralysis in our two parties, there is a time when conceivably an independent candidacy actually could win. And those are the questions we’re going to be asking,” he said.
Webb was elected to the Senate in 2006 but left after one six-year term. He is the author of 10 books, and an Emmy award- winning journalist and filmmaker.
In addition to Clinton, the other Democratic presidential contenders are U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.
Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis