Looking for Jim Webb’s 2016 vision? Check Twitter

Posted at 3:35 PM, Jan 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-19 20:42:14-05

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — Jim Webb has skipped the usual full Washington media tour since launching a presidential exploratory committee late last year. He has done fewer than a handful of interviews, given one high-profile speech and has shied away from attacking other Democrats who are considering a run in 2016.

But that doesn’t mean Webb has been silent on issues. Far from it. Webb, a 68-year-old former senator and secretary of the Navy, has been quietly outlining a 2016 platform–on Twitter.

For the last two-months, Webb has been tweeting about criminal justice reform, mental health issues and efforts to increase middle class incomes. He has urged the United States to reshape its drug policies and outlined his views on leadership.

What’s more, Webb has commented on news-of-the-day issues, like President Barack Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba, former New York Mario Cuomo’s death and the release of Congress’ report on torture.

Webb plans to continue this Twitter-first strategy when he live tweets President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, adding his observations and disagreements with the president in real time.

While most of this has gone largely unscrutinized–and Webb and his advisers are aware Twitter can’t be the only way a presidential candidate outlines a message–advisers said Webb’s Twitter account is a fair representation of the platform Webb would run on if he chooses to jump into the race.

“We can un-paralyze the environment and re-establish a transparent, functioning governmental system,” he said in December, linking to a number of policy positions on combating climate change. “Why are so many Americans currently in prison compared with other countries and our own history,” he asked this month.

Webb’s tweets are noticeably very different than most politician’s tightly edited, concise messages. Some, frankly, don’t make sense.

But Webb’s spokesman said the former senator writes all his own tweets and takes it “very seriously.”

“It is not a bunch of propeller heads around him saying you should do that or this,” said Craig Crawford, Webb’s new communication’s director whose hiring was announced on Twitter. “He likes to get his own message out and doesn’t do interviews just for the heck of it. He is his own guy.”

Crawford said Webb enjoys Twitter more than giving speeches. “It is more a dialogue than a one way speech,” he said, adding that the former senator feeds off the responses he gets and reads all of them.

“He approaches Twitter as a conversation,” Crawford said. “He did these prison reform tweets and it is an opportunity to build a conversation with followers that is a little different than a speech or an interview that is driven by whatever the questions are. I think he enjoys it.”

So will Webb bypass the media and only try and reach voters through Twitter in the coming months?

No, says Crawford, who notes that Webb has received a list of media requests that “most politicians would dream about.”

“He recognizes that interviews are part of the gig,” Crawford said. “He is going to open up the doors before too long.”