COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb says his decision whether to challenge Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination will rest on whether he can raise enough money to be viable in running against the heavy favorite.
"It's not worth it go through this process if you have to sell out what you believe," Webb, 69, a former Navy secretary, said Wednesday between private meetings with South Carolina party leaders. "The question is, can we get the right kind of support in order to get out and make our case to the American people rather than to the financial sector?"
Webb said he wants to be a voice for working-class Americans neglected in a political system dominated by money. He says he will decide this spring whether to run.
He said raising enough money to power a campaign of his own "will be a challenge after Citizens United," the Supreme Court ruling that has helped super PACs spend staggering sums of money from corporations, unions and wealthy people.
South Carolina hosts the South's first presidential primary, weeks after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Of particular significance to Democrats nationally, South Carolina is the first primary state with a large African-American population.
Clinton is widely expected to announce a presidential candidacy. Her aides have promised an aggressive push in the state, where Clinton lost a bitter battle with Barack Obama in 2008 on his way to the presidency. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, another prospective challenger, has made several trips to the state.
Webb did not directly criticize Clinton on Wednesday, but he argued that voters want new faces.
"What I'm seeing is that there is a leadership fatigue in this country, an incumbent fatigue from both parties," he said.
Webb served in the Senate alongside Clinton for two years before she became secretary of state. He did not seek re-election in 2012, leaving the chamber after one term.
He said he wants Democrats to return to their roots as "the party that is assisting the objectives of the people who do the hard work in our country."
He also said the U.S. needs a "clear doctrine" for when and how to use military force in conflicts.
State Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison described Webb as "thoughtful and serious" after the two met privately, and rejected the notion that Clinton's likely candidacy makes a competitive primary impossible. "People asked the same questions in 2007," Harrison said. "Nobody saw Barack Obama as having a chance."
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