RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia said Wednesday he is considering running for president because his party has splintered into a series of interest groups and failed to address the economic concerns of middle class Americans.
But for now, he's limiting his critique to the party, not Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"The Democratic party has lost the message that made it such a great party for so many years, and that message was take care of working people, take care of the people who have no voice in the corridors of power, no matter their race, ethnicity or any other reason," Webb said at a Virginia legislative preview organized by The Associated Press. "The Democratic party has basically turned into a party of interest groups."
Webb, who last month announced a presidential exploratory committee, said he would make a decision in the next few months on whether to compete for the Democratic nomination in 2016. He is one of a handful of potential Democratic candidates who have been overshadowed by Clinton, who has yet to decide but remains the dominant figure in the early campaign to succeed President Barack Obama.
The 68-year-old Vietnam War veteran and Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan said he was concerned about the direction of the country and advocated reorienting national security and foreign policy while addressing the country's economic challenges.
"I'm not a career politician. This is not a planned trajectory," Webb said, pointing to his unlikely Senate run in 2006 that unseated GOP Sen. George Allen. "If I commit to something I will see it though."
At the AP event, Webb declined to comment on Clinton or the role she could play in a Democratic primary. But he said his own experiences in the Senate, the military and leadership roles "have helped me understand the issues in a way that I believe I could effectively lead."
"I just don't want to be seen as attacking Hillary Clinton," Webb said in an interview with The AP following the question-and-answer session with reporters.
Democrats have represented interest groups rather than "working people" and those without political power, Webb added. He pointed to the lack of support in the fall elections among "white working people" for Senate Democrats like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Landrieu faces an uphill challenge in Saturday's Senate runoff race while Hagan was defeated by Republican Thom Tillis.
"The very people who would have a natural affinity for what the Democratic party used to offer feel alienated," he said.
Webb offered a mix of concerns about the country's direction, citing the need to reshape U.S. national security and foreign policy, which he said had been "on autopilot" since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He said the Obama administration's decision to use unilateral military force in Libya was improper and expressed concern about domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency.
The former senator said he plans to decide about a presidential campaign in the next few months.
"If we get the right kind of support and the right kind of financial backing we'll move forward," he said.
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