Democratic candidate Webb quits US presidential race

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Former US senator Jim Webb quit the 2016 Democratic presidential race Tuesday, citing differences with the left-leaning party and raising the possibility of mounting an independent presidential bid.

“I fully accept that my views on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and the nominating base of the Democratic Party,” Webb told a press conference in Washington. “For this reason I am withdrawing from any consideration of being the Democratic Party’s nominee for the presidency.”

Polls of Democratic voters have shown Webb drawing just 1 or 2 per cent, and he has struggled to raise money to cover campaign costs.

Webb admitted he had failed to gain traction in a race dominated by former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, who were the main focus of the party’s first debate last week.

Speculation has mounted in recent weeks about the possibility that Vice President Joe Biden could enter the race.

The White House has provided no indication of whether Biden will mount a run, amid reports he has been consulting advisors and that potential staff interviews were being planned.

Biden himself has acknowledged that he is deliberating whether to run but has lately declined to answer questions from reporters.

An average of polls aggregated by website Real Clear Politics shows Biden with 17 per cent support, far below Clinton at 47 per cent. Sanders is in second place with 25 per cent.

Biden would likely draw support from Clinton, who will appear Thursday before a Congressional committee to answer questions about her handling of the 2012 terrorist attack against the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The Benghazi issue and her use of a private email server as secretary of state could be used as political fodder against her.

Webb said he would spend the coming weeks evaluating a possible independent presidential run, pointing to supporters who urged him to run outside the traditional two-party system.

Webb, 69, served one term in the US Senate as a Democrat from Virginia from 2007-13 but served as Navy secretary in the 1980s under Republican president Ronald Reagan.

The first in a series of state-by-state intra-party primary elections will be held in February, ahead of the November 2016 general elections.

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