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Jim Webb Was the Perfect No Labels Candidate. That's Why He Never Had a Chance.

Alex Wong, Getty Images

Jim Webb can now add “Democratic presidential candidate” to his list of formerly held titles. On Tuesday, the former Virginia senator (and former Republican) announced at the National Press Club that he is withdrawing from the primary, while warning that he's “not going away" in the presidential race. Instead, he will explore his options to run as an independent in coming weeks, as he talks "with people I have not felt comfortable talking with as a Democratic candidate.” 

A reporter asked Webb whether he still considers himself a Democrat. After a pause, the candidate responded that he’d have to think about his answer. But he doesn't have to think too hard about it, since it's already clear that he and the political group No Labels were made for each other.  

No Labels' lofty goal is "to move America from the old politics of point scoring toward a new politics of problem-solving." The non-profit group prioritizes bipartisanship simply for the sake of bipartisanship, which it's often interpreted to mean favoring Republican candidates over centrist Democrats, according to a 2014 Yahoo News story. The same article, by Meredith Shiner, noted that No Labels offers a "Problem Solver Seal" for lawmakers who simply agree to the idea of bipartisanship, but "requires nothing of those members from a policy perspective." (No Labels will award the seal to presidential candidates in the weeks leading up to the New Hampshire primary.)

Webb was lucky enough to get that hashtag, #ProblemSolver, when he participated in a No Labels conference earlier this month:

Webb channeled the No Labels spirit on Tuesday when he said, "Our country is more important than a label." He spoke regretfully about the Democratic Party's hierarchy, which he insists put him at an unfair disadvantage, although at times it wasn't clear why Webb ran as a Democrat in the first place. He disagrees on many of the main tenets of the Democratic platform, including climate change, gun policy, social issues, reproductive rights, and racial discrimination. And, just like No Labels, he can't quite articulate what he does stand for. "I’ve worked with both sides, and I have a lot of respect for many people who are members of both parties," Webb said. "I know how broken our system really is. This country needs a totally new dynamic that respects and honors our history and our traditions but is not a slave to the power structures that are failing us."

If this pitch appeals to a voting bloc of any significance, Webb hasn't found it yet. As a Democrat, Webb has run an unremarkable campaign, pulling in a little over 1 percent in national polling and $700,000 in fundraising in the third quarter. Yet Webb insists his fans are out there, saying, "I honestly could see us beating both" Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in a general election.