Jim Webb and the Curse of the 2008 Vice Presidential Candidates

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/97248334@N00/248619188/in/photolist-nYePJ-5vzRYC-rHE69-nYePD-rHE8E-rHE9G-89ZrhV-8a3u5u-8a3Egu-8Nysqs-8NvnuH-8NvmiB-8NvmUZ-8NvmKn-8NvnZn-8NysBu-8NvmvH-8a3CeU-8a3Dyo-8NyyFq-8NvtJn-8a3uWy-8Nyvk5-rHE7u-8NviCP-8Nyp5h-nYePG-rHEbd-89ZtUT-8a3DTG-8NyuWw-8Nvs1r-8Nyxs9-8Nvrpv-8a3syu-89Zetn-89Ze7n-8Nytxs-8Nypz1-8Nyu7G-8Nvpfz-8Nvp2M-8NvomT-8Nvpst-8NytVm-arK5iK-arMQzW-arMPnE-arMMY7-arKu7e">kalexnova</a>/Flickr

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) dropped out of the Democratic presidential race on Tuesday but left open the possibility of running next year as an independent. Webb has been many things—decorated Vietnam vet, boxer, Navy secretary, author, senator—but for a few months in 2008 (until he took his own name out of consideration), he was also a popular choice to be Barack Obama’s running mate. Webb, as the Wall Street Journal put it, was “the sort of Democrat who can offer strong defense credentials, as well as a centrist, pro-gun appeal to white voters in an upper South state.”

And maybe that’s where he went wrong. Seven years later, almost every individual floated as potential Republican or Democratic vice presidential choice in 2008 is either out of politics or on their way out. Consider John McCain’s choices:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: Currently touting his strong tied-for-fifth-place showing in the Iowa polls.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: Resigned during her first term, now writing occasionally viral Facebook posts.

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman: Retired to become a lobbyist.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty: Couldn’t beat Michele Bachmann, now a lobbyist.

Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor: Lost his primary to this guy.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: Skiing, probably?

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge: Running a global security firm.

Or Obama’s:

Indiana Sen.Evan Bayh: Retired to become a lobbyist.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius: Resigned from her post as secretary of health and human services after a calamitous HealthCare.gov rollout.

Texas Rep. Chet Edwards: Lost his seat in 2010.

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden: It’s complicated.

The only exception to the Curse of 2008 is then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who went on to replace Webb in the Senate and is currently considered a possible vice presidential candidate on the Democratic side. (Hillary Clinton was famously not considered, which perhaps explains her bright presidential prospects in 2016.)

The lesson, as always, is to never do anything ambitious.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest